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The Making of I Am Number Four, Part 1

The sci-fi action adventure I Am Number Four reaches theates soon, and Earth's Mightiest is presenting the first part of a behind the scenes look at its making.
THE STORYLINE:

Three are dead. He is Number Four. John Smith is a fugitive on the run from ruthless enemies sent to destroy him. Changing his identity, moving from town to town with his guardian Henri. John is always the new kid with no ties to his past. In the small Ohio town he now calls home, John encounters unexpected, life changing events, his first love, powerful new abilities and a connection to the others who share his incredible destiny.



THE DIRECTOR SIGNS ON

Director D. J. Caruso (“Eagle Eye,”“Disturbia”) has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks, so he was excited to helm “I Am Number Four.”

“My collaboration with DreamWorks started when I was directing a television series called ‘High Incident,’ explains Caruso. “Years later we teamed up on ‘Disturbia,’ then we worked together again on ‘Eagle Eye,’ which was another successful collaboration. I feel like I am part of the DreamWorks family, and it has become my home as a filmmaker.”

“I Am Number Four” is the biggest effects movie Caruso has ever done and he is finding Michael Bay’s experience as a director of such mega-hits as “Transformers” and “Armageddon” an invaluable help. “Michael has been very helpful with the physicality of what needs to happen on set when you are dealing with a CG character,” explains Caruso.



Producer Michael Bay equally admires his director, “D.J. has an incredible ability to get in touch with the reality of his young characters’ lives. It’s not easy to make an alien kid with super powers feel real—an authentic hero that audiences could relate to.”

Caruso was immediately captivated by the story of “I Am Number Four,” particularly the character of John Smith, played by Alex Pettyfer. “When DreamWorks sent it to me,” says Caruso, “I was really attracted to it from the character standpoint—this disenfranchised teenager who keeps moving around, not really putting down roots, and trying to figure out who he is. At the same time, he’s got this hidden destiny. I thought it was a really cool story.”

Bay was drawn to the story’s unusual premise. “I’ve always been attracted to stories about ordinary people forced into extraordinary situations. Number Four is almost the opposite— an extraordinary guy who wants nothing more than to have a normal life,” he says.

Caruso admits that he is interested in characters who are going through a dark period. “Through that darkness they figure out where the light is, and they find something good. What I enjoy exploring is the notion that you have to experience some bad things in order to grow up, and to find out who you are. Thematically, that happens in this movie as well.”

“When I first saw the manuscript for the book, I knew it would make a great movie. It was a new twist on a classic concept, with a great combination of realism and action," says Bay.

THE CAST & CHARACTERS

The filmmakers were excited to put together a cast for “I Am Number Four” that would showcase the energy and intensity of the well-drawn characters.

The first task was to fill the role of John Smith, aka Number Four. Caruso knew he had to find someone with a strong personality who also had a sensitive side to portray the character. “John’s extraordinary abilities make him very different from the other kids in school, which in turn makes it very hard for him to fit in,” Caruso says. “A lot of teenagers can relate to that, particularly those who have to move to a new town at that age,” he adds. “Trying to integrate into high school is tough for anyone. There is a universal aspect to his character that the audiences can hang on to because even though he is superhuman, the emotions that he has are something that a normal teenager would be experiencing.”

Many weeks went into the selection process as the filmmakers looked for that one actor who would have the attitude and physical prowess to bring John Smith to life. When Alex Pettyfer had his first read, D.J. Caruso knew that he had someone special on his hands. “I feel that Alex has a really special gift,” Caruso says. “As interesting, attractive and dynamic as he is, he has an incredible vulnerability that really works for the character. I think it will make audiences fall in love with him.”

Producer Michael Bay says of Pettyfer: “I’ve been watching Alex for a long time. He’s got a ton of charisma and physicality. As Number Four, he brought a mix of strength and vulnerability that not a lot of young actors can pull off.”



Alex Pettyfer was delighted to land the lead role of John Smith for two reasons. The first was Pettyfer’s desire to work with D.J. Caruso. “D.J. is incredible,” he explains. “I came onto this movie because I think he’s got an amazing vision. He brings something different to the table. He brings science fiction into a world and makes it real,” says Pettyfer. The second was the story and the role. “It’s a really cool premise,” explains Pettyfer. “John Smith is at a point in his life where he has a choice and his dilemma is that he wants to be a normal kid but he has been given this destiny of becoming a warrior. He is initially very reluctant and has a James Dean ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ outlook. He has the kind of temperament that you feel could explode at any moment.

“John is trying to find out who he is and what he wants to do with his life,” Pettyfer continues. “A lot of kids are going to relate to what he is going through in the story—being an outsider and trying to fit in.”

Caruso chose actress Dianna Agron to play the pivotal role of Sarah. However, he didn’t discover her by watching her Emmy® Award–winning television series, “Glee.” “I don’t watch a lot of television,” Caruso says. “She came in to read very late in the process and she knocked me out. She’s so dynamic, intelligent and beautiful. I thought she would be a great contrast to Alex with their very different personalities and the dynamic they have between them.”

“Sarah is an outsider too because even though she’s beautiful and at one time was popular, she made some decisions that made her not popular in the school anymore. So Sarah’s sitting on the outside, and John’s sitting on the outside. And together they find common ground," says Caruso.

Dianna Agron was immediately taken with the script. “What I loved about it was that the kids are quite mature and wise beyond their years,” Agron explains. “They might not be quote-unquote ‘cool kids’ or be the ones that pursue typical teenage activities, but they have a lot of heart and spirit, and they go on an awesome journey together.



“I also loved the character of Sarah,” Agron continues. “There are a lot of similarities to how I was in school. I love photography and I really started getting into it during high school, taking photos for the yearbook.”

In the film, Sarah is immediately attracted to John. “John is quite unusual and they have a very intense connection right from the start,” Agron explains. “It gets deeper throughout the story. Their relationship is very romantic. It’s that young love that isn’t tainted by any sort of fear—when you haven’t had your heart broken five hundred times.”

Caruso was looking for someone very special to play the role of Number Six. She needed to be able to take on the intense stunt work that was required of the character. After a long search, he found actress Teresa Palmer (“Bedtime Stories,” “Grudge 2,” “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”). “Number Six is a really powerful, dark, mysterious character,” says Caruso. “Teresa embodies the sexy confidence that was required to pull off the role. She has an infectious energy that blew me away when she read for me.”

Palmer says of her character, “Six is equally as intimidating as she is enchanting, which makes her a force to be reckoned with. She is used to surviving on her own, making her a very enigmatic and mysterious character. Six has fighting skills; her precision and timing of blows is brutal and cunning, which makes her an incredible asset in battle.”

Palmer notes that Number Six is a complex character to play. “She’s been preparing herself for battle her whole life and is incredibly skilled in martial arts and sword-fighting, but she’s quirky in an introverted way. It’s a very exciting role and really different from anything I have ever done before,” Palmer says.

“I auditioned in my natural Australian accent,” recalls Palmer. “I think they were a bit skeptical about it at first, but after we talked about it, it seemed to make sense. All nine children wouldn’t have been dropped in America; it would have been too dangerous. It was a much more interesting idea to have them land in different countries and have different accents.”

Caruso handpicked Timothy Olyphant (“Justified,” “Live Free or Die Hard”) to play Henri, John’s guardian. “Timothy is a really dynamic person and has amazing acting rhythms,” says Caruso. “It’s been wonderful to see what he has done with the role of Henri and seeing him work with Alex. It’s not like the standard father-son relationship. It’s more like an older brother or an uncle who doesn’t really know how to handle a kid.”

“My character changes throughout the movie,” Olyphant explains. “In the beginning Henri is a guardian from the planet Lorien. His role is to protect this special child as he grows on the planet Earth. As the story continues, John’s unique abilities begin to develop and grow stronger and stronger. Henri helps him understand what his destiny is.”

Reflecting on the relationship between Henri and John, Olyphant says, “I think it’s just this wonderful sort of tension, where Henri loves John, but sometimes he just wants to strangle him. If we’ve done it right, you should see that Henri’s both a bit of a hard-ass and dangerous character, but at the same time you see that he truly cares for him.”

In addition to enjoying the role of Henri, Olyphant also had a very positive experience with director D.J. Caruso. “D.J.’s just a classy guy and a great director,” he says. “Our conversations from the jump were really great and it felt like we were on the same page right from the beginning. I gave him my gut instinct about what I would like to do and he responded very positively.”

Callan McAuliffe was about to get on a plane to go home to Australia, after completing work as the male lead in Rob Reiner’s “Flipped,” when he got a call to audition for the role of Sam. “Sam has a damaged soul,” explains director D.J. Caruso. “Callan navigated his emotions perfectly. He is a natural actor who is both funny and charming.”

“Sam is a borderline nerd, but never boring. He is the kind of guy who gets bullied a lot in school,” McAuliffe says of his character. “People have always called him ‘Spaceman.’

He gets tormented all the time as a result of his interest in aliens. He got it from his father who spent all his time studying ‘close encounters’ and considered himself an ‘ancient astronautologist,’ if you will.”

McAuliffe adds, “When Sam finds out that John is an alien, he’s ecstatic! He is convinced that aliens have abducted his father and he hopes this might give him an opportunity to go and find him.”

“Kevin brought an unorthodox nature that made the Commander dangerous, yet compelling,” Caruso says. “He has the ability to change the dynamics and rhythm of a scene that raises the bar for everyone involved.”

“I met D.J. at his office,” recalls Durand. “As soon as we shook hands, I knew this was going to be a really fun experience. He’s very willing and happy to create something together. Within the structure of the script and the character, he allowed me to play and find those moments that can only come out of being spontaneous, which is really fun and exciting. It’s so cool to work with someone who is that confident in his cast.”

Durand explains his role as commander of the Mogadorian Army: “We’ve eradicated most of the Loriens, but nine children have escaped with their guardians and come to Earth. I’m tracking them down. Getting rid of them one by one, but I have to kill them in order, which makes it rather inconvenient.”

“I love the character of the Mog Commander. It’s just awesome to disappear into him and bask in the stuff he revels in; it’s so much fun. You feel like a tiger playing around with little bunnies.”—Kevin Durand

“The Commander loves this planet,” says Durand. “I think first and foremost, the thing he appreciates the most are all the toys. People on Earth have the luxury of cruising on the Internet, seeing movies, shopping and eating all these wonderful things. He loves all the great junk food.”

Look for Part Two of The Making of I Am Number Four on Monday
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EdGross
2/13/2011

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