The 2004 retro sci-fi caper Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was the first major film to shoot entirely on greenscreen. In an era when blockbuster movies eschew physical sets and use CGI wizardry as a crutch rather than a tool, that doesn’t seem like a groundbreaking or even welcome accomplishment. But no movie – even the effects-heavy Star Wars prequels – came close to using virtual scenery to Sky Captain‘s extent. The movie flopped, but it impressed the film world and presaged today’s fantasy-soaked cinemas. So what happened to the filmmakers behind this milestone?
The Telegraph released a heartbreaking profile of Sky Captain‘s creators, Kerry and Kevin Conran, who saw their careers dramatically ascend and collapse in a few years over the anticipation and failure of their only feature film. Sky Captain started as an attempt to prove that independent filmmakers could create exciting blockbusters on small budgets using modern technology, but it ballooned into a massive, Jude Law-fronted boondoggle. Their innovations at one point caught the eyes of James Cameron, George Lucas, and other directors known for their technical wizardry, but they never earned a seat at the table in Hollywood. Kerry Conran continues to be crestfallen over this reversal of fortune and refused to participate in the article.
Given how little the Conran brothers created during their moment in the limelight, we may not know if they’re the greatest untapped film talents in a generation or just more indie darlings who didn’t work well on a bigger canvas. Their single shot fired, though, was a big one that is largely untold in film history. The next time a movie dramatically alters its setting without needing to reshoot, thank the Conrans for climbing that peak first.