Stargate (French: Stargate, la porte des étoiles) is a 1994 American French epic adventure-military science fiction film released through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Carolco Pictures. Created by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, the film is the first release in the Stargate franchise. Directed by Roland Emmerich, the film stars Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson, Carlos Lauchu, Djimon Hounsou, Erick Avari, Alexis Cruz, Mili Avital, John Diehl, French Stewart, and Viveca Lindfors. The plot centers around the premise of a "Stargate", an ancient ring-shaped device that creates a wormhole enabling travel to a similar device elsewhere in the universe. The film's central plot explores the theory of extraterrestrial beings having an influence upon human civilization.
The film had a mixed initial critical reception, earning both praise and criticism for its atmosphere, story, characters, and graphic content. Nevertheless, Stargate gained a cult following and became a commercial success worldwide. Devlin and Emmerich gave the rights to the franchise to MGM when they were working on their 1996 film Independence Day (the rights to the Stargate film are currently owned by StudioCanal, with Lions Gate Entertainment handling most distribution in terms of international theatrical and worldwide home video releases); however, MGM retains the domestic television rights.
Stargate had a budget of $55 million.
The film was originally planned to play out in a chronological order, but when Devlin and Emmerich edited the film to tighten the narrative, they decided to change the first scene of the film into a flashback to show who the human host of Ra was before the aliens took him. Only Jaye Davidson's upper torso was filmed because Davidson had refused to take out his nipple rings. The first scene was a combination of model shots and a set in Yuma, Arizona where Rambo: First Blood Part II had been filmed. The scene of the excavation of the Stargate was also filmed in three days in Arizona. A golden look was achieved by filming near the time of sunset. To keep within the limit of the budget, the producers put stick figures with cloth in the distant desert to appear as humans. The original Stargate was painted black, but it looked like a giant tire so it was repainted silver at the last moment.
Daniel Jackson's lecture on his theories was filmed in a hotel in Los Angeles. The scene was originally much longer and delved more into the theories that aliens had built the Egyptian pyramids, but the scene was trimmed for time concerns for the release. The scenes with O'Neil at his house were the first scenes filmed with Kurt Russell; his hair was cut short afterwards. Russell requested his hair color to be brightened a little for the film. The fictional facility housing the Stargate was the largest set for the film, located in Long Beach, California. Egyptologist Stuart Tyson Smith joined production to make all Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and spoken language as accurate as possible.
Themes and inspirations
Stargate began as two separate films that Emmerich and Devlin conceived separately. Emmerich's film, Necropolis: City of the Dead, was about a spaceship being buried under the Great Pyramid of Egypt and Devlin's unnamed film was to be, in his words, "Lawrence of Arabia on another planet." The two films were combined to become Stargate.
The mask of the pharaoh in the opening credits was made out of fiber glass and modeled in the workshop. The sequence used a motion-control camera to give better depth of field. The score of Stargate was composer David Arnold's first work on an American feature film. When Devlin and Emmerich first flew to London to meet with Arnold, they had not yet heard the score; hearing it, they felt "he had elevated the film to a whole other level". Arnold later interviewed the actors during principal photography, using the information to improve his score.
Jeff Kleiser and a special effects team of 40 people created the look of the Stargate. They used self-written image-creation and compositing software, as well as commercial digital packages to create the Stargate, the morphing helmets worn by Ra and the Horus guards, and the cityscape of Nagada. Footprints in the sand were often digitally removed. The creation of the wormhole, which was fully digitized, was one of the biggest challenges in the making of the film. The ripples had to be digitized to seem accurate. Scanning lasers were lined up parallel to the gate to illustrate the amount of body that passed the surface of the Stargate plane. Afterwards, the parts of the body that had or had not yet gone through the gate (depending of the side of filming) were obliterated with a digital matte program. The use of computers generating a big 3D storyboard allowed Emmerich to try out different shooting angles before settling on one angle.
Music and soundtrack
The soundtrack was composed by David Arnold, played by the Sinfonia of London and conducted by Nicholas Dodd. It was the second motion picture Arnold had composed and the first major motion picture. At the time of Stargate's production, David Arnold had recently started to work in a local video store in London. Once Arnold got the job, he spent several months in a hotel room working on the soundtrack, spending more time rewriting the music and improving it as delays were being created due to film companies trying to get the rights to release the film. According to Arnold "when I first read the script for StarGate, I knew what approach to take, which was to be as big and bold as possible," he kept on saying:
On September 5, 2013, during an interview with Digital Spy, Emmerich said that he and MGM are planning a new Stargate as a reboot with a trilogy. On May 29, 2014, it was announced that MGM and Warner Bros. are partnering together for a reboot of Stargate as a trilogy with Emmerich directing and Devlin producing.
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- Devlin, Dean (2001). Audio Commentary for Stargate (DVD). MGM Home Entertainment.
- Emmerich, Roland (2001). Audio Commentary for Stargate (DVD). MGM Home Entertainment.
- Porter, Beth (1995-01-16). "Wow, how did they do that?". London: The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/wow-how-did-they-do-that-1568272.html. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
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- Arnold, David. "History - 1994". David Arnold.com. http://www.davidarnold.com. Retrieved 2010-09-10.
- Kerry J. Byrnes. "Stargate - David Arnold". Film Score Monthly. http://filmscoremonthly.com/features/timetravel1.asp. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- Exclusive: 'Stargate' to receive movie reboot, trilogy planned
- Kroll, Justin (May 28, 2014). "MGM, Warner Bros. Team with Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin on ‘Stargate’ Trilogy". Variety. http://variety.com/2014/film/news/mgm-warner-bros-team-with-roland-emmerich-dean-devlin-on-stargate-reboot-1201196082/. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
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