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Spy Report from the wooded set of WAR OF THE WORLDS!

Hey folks, Harry here with a little recon mission that Roger O Thornhill went out on with his celcamera. No glitzy star images here... though - given the artwork on the posters - it seems he might have captured the first martian life images I've seen. Of course, I'm sure Dennis Muren and his team of magicians will give them more menace than these photos inspire. Here's a little behind the scenes magic on WAR OF THE WORLDS...


I’ve been visiting your site for years, and was thrilled to have something to share, however small, about the War of the Worlds shoot.

Over the past couple of weeks, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning have spent 3 days filming on Croton Point Park on the Hudson River here in Westchester County, New York. Croton Point is a land mass that sticks out into the Hudson River and provides spectacular scenery that attracted Spielberg. At the tip of the point, they built a stream bed and using a large water tank and recycling pumps, created a stream that would apparently run into the Hudson. I’ve attached pictures of the stream bed looking out towards the Hudson, the water tank and the basin where they caught the water and piped it back to the tank.

In addition, they brought their own trees, which had been cut down and attached by large plywood sheets with L-brackets, to create their own woods. There are a couple of pictures of one of those trees and the resulting woods in what is normally a bare patch.

I do not know much about the shots taken at the point but I do know they shot two additional sequences nearer the park’s main parking area (where Spielberg and Cruise arrived by Helicopter. While I personally only visited the sets after shooting had come and gone, a friend of mine provided some details of the other shots

One of the shots (done after Spielberg and Cruise had left) was of the clothes scattered into the woods and on the playground being lit with orange light at night, with wind and smoke. It looked liked all that remained of the victims of the alien weapon. My friend found it very disturbingly reminiscent of 9/11. (As you might guess, New Yorkers are particularly sensitive to that image).

Finally, last Friday, Spielberg, Cruise and Fanning returned for one last shot. My friend described it as Cruise and Fanning walking through the smoke filled woods where many of the vines hanging from the trees had been painted bright red. Fanning was wearing a long cloak, and it appeared that they were relieved after having survived some intense conflict. They did three takes, after which Spielberg called it a wrap and the crew all applauded (which led my friend to believe that this was the last shot of primary filming).

I’ve also attached some pics taken with my cellphone as I wandered the set on the following day (so I apologize for the lack of quality).

Call me Roger O Thornhill.

Readers Talkback
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  • Dec. 23, 2004, 11:30 a.m. CST


    by Mostholy

    Again...the Triffids could kick these aliens' collective asses.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 11:51 a.m. CST

    what the horse???

    by neckbone

    so the aliens' secret weapon is an algae-encrusted office water cooler and what's left of an old crappy nerf soccer ball? damn, we're screwed.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 11:52 a.m. CST

    Look out!

    by Childe Roland

    The aliens have flourescent green plastic canisters with bad black veins painted on them! What could be in those canisters? Maybe leftover Slime(TM) from the 1980s? And that spongy green brain atop it! Perhaps it's really supposed to be inside... suspended in slime. I really hope they use these props in the movie and that Spielberg is approaching this war movie like he did 1941, with tongue firmly in cheek. Then I might actually pay to see it.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 12:05 p.m. CST

    I always knew Martians were big green jars with brains on the to

    by Blue Devil

    Who needs the rovers? Billions of dollars flushed down the toilet! Obviously, the Martians will be CG but I kind the like the current look.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 12:08 p.m. CST

    Just what I found

    by Roger O Thornhil

    I can't explain the bottle and rock, it was there with the vines and other stuff. (I took home the bottle, rock and a couple of the vines as a souveneir.) There was also a delicately piled tower of rocks. Make what you will of this.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 12:21 p.m. CST

    Looks like "The Village Redux"....

    by Karl Childers

    ...even though I did like The Village.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 1 p.m. CST

    That rock and bottle

    by Wingnut1A

    I know you guys are just joking, but what is it really? Is it used so the actors have something to look at while filming thier scene, and then it would be replaced with a CG creature afterwards? *** Seems like it might be alien-shaped.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 1:06 p.m. CST

    maybe those vines are the red weed

    by cinematt

    the red weed, as we all know, was the vegetation of mars that began to take root on earth after it was conqured. maybe the red vines in the picture represent the onset of the red weed. i'm really looking forward to this flick, Tom Cruise or no...

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 1:26 p.m. CST

    The Village? Here we go...

    by CharlieTupperman

    Now Karl.... please tell me... exactly WHY does this look like The Village? Is it because the pictures were taken in a forest? Do you see this movie 'looking' like The Village because so? Should your opinion be that this movie and The Village are similar, and if so, do you see that as a positive or a negative similarity? Your talkback response was so emptyheaded, I could no longer sit back and ignore your effort to inform the world of... I'm not sure 'what' exactly. Ah to HELL with it. Hey, how about that George Lucas?

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 1:34 p.m. CST

    Oh whoops, these are the Dr Who pictures...

    by cornstalkwalker

    ... Sorry I got them mixed up.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 3:02 p.m. CST

    Reds! Terrorists!! Martians!!! Osama bin Laden = Paranoia-O-Ram

    by Carson Dyle

    By the end of the easy-going 90's the Space Invaders genre had lapsed into camp with pictures like "Independence Day" and "Mars Attacks!". Alas, thanks to Osama Bin Laden, the thought of our cities being attacked by a vicious, wicked and unseen enemy is no longer the quaintly amusing notion it was during the Clinton era. Around the time "Alien" was released, Spielberg was quoted as saying he would never be able to make a film in which the aliens were "bad guys". Seems he's had a change of heart. I don't know if his take on "The War of the Worlds" will be any good, but given the ominous post-9/11 subtext it's bound to be a darker piece of work than either "E.T." or "Close Encounters". Given the our current paranoia regarding the threat of terrorist attack (Terrorists are the new Reds), updating the story is the smartest thing the filmmakers could have done.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 3:14 p.m. CST

    Good job Roger

    by Lost Skeleton

    I think this will be good. Express shoot + Speilberg = classic. (Just like Raiders)

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 3:48 p.m. CST


    by Squashua

    Is that one of them-there rectangular water melons? I's-a gotta eats me one a dem!

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 4:30 p.m. CST

    Thanks, Roger

    by Mafu

    Good pics, even if they were taken with your cell phone. I'm actually intrigued by this movie, despite it being a remake of a classic, and I hope Spielberg fires up in big way.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 4:31 p.m. CST

    Martian Good Guys

    by Dave Bowman

    Who says the Martians are the bad guys in this movie? Maybe they come here because we Earthmen need killin'.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 4:59 p.m. CST

    It's not about terrorism...It's about imperialism!

    by crackerfarmboy

    I keep seeing the argument again and again about how this movie will relate to the "terrorist threat" against the US. The book itself, and I suspect and hope the movie as well, is about Western imperialism throughout the world. It's about being attacked by a foreign power, killed, shoved aside, and completely taken over. The brutality of the Martians represents the brutality of imperial powers against foreign cultures. So yes, this piece is a reaction to current events, but "terrorism" is not the event in question. Rather it's recent American imperialism in Iraq. The book was a clear condemnation of such practices and attitudes. It poses the question: How would YOU like it if it happened to YOU?

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 5:33 p.m. CST

    re: It's not about terrorism...It's about imperialism!

    by Carson Dyle

    While the notion of Steven Spielberg advancing an anti-American agenda is an amusing one, in this instance it is simply not the case. Spielberg knows that Americans (and Westerners in general) are feeling particularly paranoid and vulnerable in the wake of the WTC attacks, and he's exploiting the current climate of fear for all it's worth. Certainly Wells's novel touches on the theme if Imperialism, but having read David Koepp's screenplay I can assure you that making the American government/ military look bad is the last thing on the filmmakers

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 5:37 p.m. CST

    There were shooting outside of Lexington, VA, late last week. T

    by Goon Bighead

    Seems he went into a local fast food joint and ordered a chicken strip basket and spotted a donation jar for a local girl who was injured in a atv accident and cruise dropped in 50 $100 bills. This was reported on the local news Monday evening.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 9 p.m. CST

    I don't know if anyone else has posted this but...

    by Knightsong

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 9:01 p.m. CST

    I don't know if anyone else has posted this but...

    by Knightsong

    Whoopty of someone's backyard fort project! I'm captivated at this bit of behind the scenes info!!!

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 9:11 p.m. CST


    by spazzmeister

    Ok, there is no way this is stuff from the W.O.W. set, let alone some crappy student film rubes!! Oh, and piled up stones might be from the Blair Witch..WWOOOOOOOOOOoo (Scary noise sound effect) This is a great exclusive!! C'mon, Harry, wake up from BNAT and get some better scoops!!

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 10:14 p.m. CST

    Dakota fanning is too cutesy for this

    by Omegaman

    movie, unless she's done alot of growing up since the last time I've seen her. I never read WOW so I didn't know till a couple weeks ago that its actually an anti-war/anti-imperialism story, and that H.G. Wells was a socialist. I'm wondering now if there be an attempt to push a left-wing political agenda comparing the aliens to the U.S. I think Spielberg is smarter than that though; he's about as commerical as a moviemaker can get - especially on a big tent-pole type studio flick like this. But the fact the Robbins is in it as well still makes me wonder. There's alot of other actors he could have chose and yet he chooses him. It seems like too much of a coincidence.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 10:30 p.m. CST


    by crackerfarmboy

    Yeah, it would be really inappropriate for Spielberg to accuse the US of imperialism. I suppose that this should just be our "little secret"? Call it a hunch, but I have a feeling that the rest of world is well aware. Even if some foolish neo-conservatives attempt to equate the Martians with terrorists (which is baffling to me); the rest of the world (and the more resourceful 49% of this country) will be well aware whom Spielberg is comparing the Martians to. Here's a hint, it's the same type of people that Wells was comparing them to.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 11 p.m. CST

    I don't know if anyone else has posted this but...

    by FluffyUnbound

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 11:23 p.m. CST

    Good on ya, Roger!

    by Ribbons

    Cool spy pics. Thanks for being a good fan.

  • Dec. 23, 2004, 11:31 p.m. CST


    by Omegaman

    Lighten up for chrissakes!!! :-) I just want a kick ass sci-fi action flick, neither propaganda from the right or left. If you want to send a message use western union. As long as he sticks to the story which I assume has a message deep in the subtext, then it'll be ok. Any attempt to sermonize though, to add stuff that seems too... overt, that would be a huge mistake - especially including Robbins. I don't think he'll, Spielberg, do that though - at least I hope not. It'll ruin it if he does.

  • Some sci-fi literature just shouldn't be revisited on film. Time travel had been explored so much more in the years since Time Machine was originally published that it's ideas are old hat, so to adapt it you have to update it, but if you're gonna update it, what's the point of adapting it. Just make up a new story. Alien invasions have been done to death in lit and on film, so to revisit hundred year old material is pointlesss. My guess is this will be radically different from the books, and like I, Robot, they're just using the title for its brand name recognition to get us suckers into the theatre.

  • Dec. 24, 2004, 1:46 a.m. CST

    I had to change my underwear

    by DrKodos

    They were filled with piss from laughing too hard at those photos.

  • I'll reserve judgement on how it looks on screen, just wanted to throw out a one-liner.

  • Dec. 24, 2004, 3:37 p.m. CST

    What is this, amateur hour??

    by TheGinger Twit

    Firstly, I know these are just stills of movie props, but that red weed looks bloddy pathetic. No doubt it'll be CGI and really gooey looking. As for the fact that they couldn't cut down trees out of respect for the native forest... but lets look at the logic, those trees had to be cut down from somehwere... and adding to that, they're propped up on wooden bases..... see what I'm saying here? Other than all that, my biggest rant is that this all looks like a punk gag.

  • Dec. 24, 2004, 4:46 p.m. CST

    a film about american imperialism, Inappropriate??

    by TheGinger Twit

    If there's ever going to be a film about one civilization moving in to claim the land and dominance over another, then my friends, there has never been a better time. Wake up and smell the napalm..... We in the rest of the world are all sitting around watching as one nation invades and dominates others. Lets not call left wing on this. Art is always at it's best when people have emotional gut reaction towards things which they believe in. If Speilberg and Cruize are pushing this film out now in responce to the world in which they live, then I say lets sit back and listen to what they have to say - Who knows, perhaps they'll make the martians out to be justified - their world is dying.

  • Dec. 24, 2004, 8:41 p.m. CST

    Could not agree more with lynxpro.

    by mrfan

    Really wish they had set this movie in the late 1800's as was the book. I think that would have been great. Also, I would love to see this movie kick ass but am so tired of Steven shoving the child factor into play. Give us a movie without kids Steven. Please. Just give me a great sci-fi.

  • Dec. 25, 2004, 1:11 a.m. CST

    I hope he still does the Munich 72 pic

    by Smurfette

    Hope he didnt get cold feet.

  • Dec. 25, 2004, 10:35 p.m. CST

    Starship Troopers

    by Thing-Fish

    Carson Dyle, you should watch "Starship Troopers" again, you might like it. It has a rather subversive political agenda (ie, about US imperialism), similar to what this WOTW movie probably will have. I'm starting to look forward to this (despite the fact that I really do *not* like Tom Cruise, and haven't been all that impressed with Spielberg's recent post-Ryan output).

  • Dec. 25, 2004, 11:12 p.m. CST

    Another Remake??? Do something NEW!

    by Hate_Speech

    Geesh.. ANd CRUISE? B lech....

  • Dec. 27, 2004, 10:41 a.m. CST

    Don't think it's satire

    by Ribbons

    As the Martians are the aggressors and not vice versa, I don't understand how this could be an imperialist satire a la 'Starship Troopers.' If we were supposed to see ourselves in the Martians then perhaps there'd be a slight commentary on imperialism (although the movie itself is about fighting back, so somehow I doubt that's the intent), but certainly not in the form of satire.

  • Dec. 27, 2004, 8:45 p.m. CST

    WOTW = US Imperialism?

    by Bullworth

    WHEW! The left is really desparate if they are making that stretch! I doubt that WOTW is going to have the US Imperalism theme since: 1. Spielberg **needs** a hit! His last few films have been box office disapointments and pissing off middle america on $100-puls budget flick is not the best way to fill theatres. 2. There has been no indication that the US = BAD is the take the filmmakers are going with the film...3. While HG Wells was a socialist (and like a true socialist he made sure his personal wealth ,which was substanial, was never touched...when he was not apoligizing for tolitarian regimes) people remember the book for its SF theme not its anti-western theme. Yet already you see lefties hoping that this movie has it...Now you know why Republicans cleaned up in Nov...