Behind the scenes pics, quotes and more from Snowpiercer (2013)

graphic novel

(Above) The titular vehicle in Snowpiercer as envisioned in the original 1982 black-and-white French graphic novel.

A shade more than three weeks into its American release, Snowpiercer has already become the thing of cinematic folk legend.

A train-bound post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer was born when Bong stumbled upon the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige at his favorite Seoul comic book store during the filming of 2006’s The Host. Bong read the story cover to cover while standing in front of the rack.

The movie then survived a push by Harvey Weinstein, who’s Weinstein Company bought the film in 2012, to slice 20 minutes from the running time. Weinstein ultimately relented, releasing Bong’s full vision stateside through his Radius-TWC label.

And now, three weeks into a theatrical release that is still expanding into more theaters, Snowpiercer has become available through VOD, an experiment in release patterns explored by Bilge Ebiri in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Below is a Snowpiercer primer including filmmaker quotes, trivia and a gallery of behind the scenes stills.

1) Outside of the central premise of a train with humanity’s last survivors barreling across a frozen and lifeless Earth, Bong’s film version shares little with the original black-and-white graphic novel.

In the original graphic novel the setting is the same, but there’s no idea of revolution at all. The main character’s name is Proloff and it’s really about him—a man from the back, meeting a woman from the middle of the train, and their trip to the front. There’s no Spartacus-type revolt or fighting the system. There’s no Jamie Bell character, no Octavia Spencer character, no Ewen Bremner character—this idea of a group of tail-sectioners making their way forward is not in the graphic novel. – Bong in Film Comment

Snowpiercer (barrandov)

2) The majority of the film was shot on a soundstage at Barrandov Studios in the Czech Republic, big enough to accommodate four full-size train cars strung together. The stage can be seen in the photo above.

3) Bong chose Kelly Masterson as his co-writer on the strength of the playwright’s 2007 crime drama Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

…it was completely out of the blue. We had never met, but [Bong] had seen Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, was a fan of it, and asked me to collaborate with him. And that never happens. To get a job, any job, you usually have to go through several interviews and meetings before you ever even meet the director. And then you have to meet with the studio and star, and get all their approvals. But in this case, it was just between director Bong and myself; he said he wanted me for this, and I jumped at the opportunity. – Masterson from Filmoria

4) Tilda Swinton’s character was a man in the original script.

I had no idea that Tilda Swinton would have a role in the film, and when I wrote Mason, I wrote it as a man. But she wanted that role and plays it as a woman, without changing a word. Some of the characters even call her sir. I would have never imagined that role being played that way, but Tilda is an absolute revelation in the movie. And that is one of the great surprises as a writer, when an actor interprets your words in a way you never imagined possible and you’re blown away. – Masterson from Filmoria

5) The film’s stunt coordinator Julian Spencer – the man responsible for putting together Snowpiercer’s memorable torch-lit action set piece – also helped construct Viggo Mortensen’s famed naked sauna melee in David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises.

 I don’t know if it’s a saying here in America, but in Korea they say, “One small flame can burn a whole field.” I was trying to express that cinematically. – Bong in Film Comment

6) Oldboy and Stoker director Park Chan-wook served as one of the film’s producers.

(Park) really tried his best to protect my vision, because he understands my mind and my vision. The ironic thing is that during the production of Snowpiercer, he was in Nashville shooting Stoker. I heard he suffered from Fox Searchlight. He was tortured by them with so many notes from the studio about his production. But for Snowpiercer, I was tortured by nobody. No interference. He totally protected me, I was very lucky, working under his protection. – Bong from Twitch

7) Radius-TWC co-president Tom Quinn on Snowpiercer’s unique release strategy.

Whether you’re a giant studio release or a small indie, nowadays you’ll gross the majority of your expected box office in the first four to six weeks. So why not figure out a better way to maximize that opportunity—when people are talking about your movie and wanting to see it—instead of holding back on these very restrictive theatrical windows? I think this might change the way a lot of people think about film distribution. – Quinn in an interview with Bloomberg Buisnessweek

Check out the original sources above for more info on Snowpiercer. Continue onward for a gallery of production stills.

 #1. Ain’t It Cool News
#2. China Entertainment News
#3. Snowpiercer’s Official Facebook Page
#4. The Film Stage
#5. Gambit
#6. Twitch Film
#7. Arri
#8. Filmoria
#9. Snowpiercer official site


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