‘The Road’: Many vivid images of the end of the world were real

The world ended twice this fall -- in “2012" and “The Road” -- but the latter, based on the Cormac McCarthy book, by far has the upper hand when it comes to disturbing images. And that’s not due to a bigger effects budget. In fact, many of the film’s most striking scenes were given a boost from real-life disasters. For instance, a shot of bodies hanging from a barn early in the film used hi-def footage of the World Trade Center aftermath from 9/11 to create a billowing background of black smoke. But a lot of the post-apocalyptic setting was found in post-Katrina New Orleans, which was still not completely recovered in 2008, when the film was shot.

The people of New Orleans “had been cleaning up ever since the storm hit,” said director John Hillcoat. “But the areas with wealth and business got done first.” Other areas, such as a neighborhood of new suburban houses near the infamous Lower Ninth Ward, remained abandoned and were the perfect backdrop for Viggo Mortensen and his on-screen son, Kodi Smit-McPhee, to explore. The only problems were the green grass and the blue sky. To cover the grass, Hillcoat’s crew used a snow machine to spray “ash” made from biodegradable paper in shades of gray around the set. The blue sky was grayed-down with computer-generated imagery.

But there was no CGI used to get the two boats on a freeway. “A crew was making a family film on the bayou when the storm hit. Two days after, they went out and shot 70-millimeter Imax footage of those two boats sitting on the freeway. We took the shot straight from the source.”

-- Patrick Kevin Day