Fury, the new Second World War film starring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf, is being called the most realistic war film of all time. The story of a U.S. 2nd Armored division tank rolling through Germany in the final days of the war is as authentic as director David Ayers could make it.
Actors were put through their paces at a week-long boot camp, living and sleeping inside tanks. Then there were the tanks themselves. Borrowed from collectors all over the world, Fury is the very first time a genuine Tiger 1 tank has been used in a Second World War film.
Onscreen authenticity has been the goal of many directors. As Michael Cimino once said, “If you don’t get it right, what’s the point?”
Cimino, director of Heaven’s Gate and The Deer Hunter, is a stickler for detail. For a scene in a Chinese eatery in Year of the Dragon, the director hired the Shanghai Palace Restaurant to supply the meals that dotted the tables. Cimino not only wanted to create the look but also the vibrant atmosphere (complete with food smells) of a bona fide restaurant. To that end chefs worked round the clock, whipping up 100 plates at a time, using 500 eggs rolls and hundreds of pounds of chicken, beef, shrimp and vegetables. “If the food got cold we had to throw it away,” said chef Charlie Wu. “The food doesn’t look good when it is cold.”
Any other director would have done the Nut Room scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with computer-generated imagery, but Tim Burton decided he wanted a more lifelike approach. To make sure the scene looked as real as possible, animal trainer Steve Vedmore spent 10 months training 40 real squirrels to crack and sort nuts on a conveyor belt.
Eric Schwab, the second unit director on Bonfire of the Vanities, was asked to grab a shot of the Concorde landing in New York against the backdrop of the setting sun. Schwab spent months studying the rotation of the Earth and the flight path of the plane to capture the perfect, pure moment when the sun framed the landing aircraft.
Finally, it’s not just live-action movies that go to extreme lengths for authenticity. The creators of Monsters Inc. individually animated each of giant fuzzball Sully’s 2,320,413 hairs to make them look as lifelike as possible. Every frame featuring the character took 11 hours to render.