The 2005 family movie Zathura, about an old game that comes to life when you play it, features this wonderful old Greene and Greene Craftsman in Pasadena. During the course of the film, the house gets sent into outer space, invaded by robots and Zorgons, and turned into Swiss cheese by a meteor shower. It’s painful, at times, to watch.
No real houses were harmed in the filming of this movie, however. Director Jon Favreau explains that they built a miniature version of the house and destroyed it instead.
The amount of work that was involved in replicating the real house is mind boggling.
Here’s how the miniature looked in the movie, when floating through space:
The exterior of the model house matched the real one, but the interiors were invented.
According to Favreau:
“We really wanted the house to feel like something, and feel old, and like it had some character. All the details were chosen from different famous houses, even the fireplace and the fixtures. But it wasn’t furnished well, because we wanted it to look like the dad just moved in. Part of the fun was making a house that, as it came apart, was somewhat tragic–it breaks your heart.”
Tim Robbins played the dad. He was only in a few scenes at the beginning and end of the movie. He only had to be there for 2 weeks out of the 6-month shoot.
Here’s his office, where he apparently designed cars:
Across the entry hall from his office is the living room, with another fabulous fireplace in it:
He apologizes to his sons because he knows the house doesn’t feel like “home” yet, and hopes that they’ll come to love it in time:
How can they not love it? Look at that woodwork! And those built-ins!
After the meteor shower pelts the house, the boys realize they are now floating somewhere out in space:
The front staircase:
The Boys’ Bedroom:
As the camera quickly pans across the room we get a fleeting look inside the boys’ bathroom:
Kristen Stewart (best known as Bella from the Twilight series, which I covered here) plays Walter and Danny’s older sister Lisa, who sleeps through most of the excitement before being cryogenically frozen by the game. Here she is, telling the boys that unless the house is on fire, they should leave her alone:
One of my favorite lines from this scene is when her brothers say, “But we saw Saturn!” (And she slams the door.)
The Upstairs Landing, before all that gorgeous woodwork gets ripped apart:
Love that stained-glass window in the stairwell:
It was important to the filmmakers to create a house that looked real, and not like a set. Jon Favreau says, “I came up through independent film, where you’re usually shooting on location. I hate when it looks like you shot on a set instead of on location.”
We don’t get to see much of the kitchen before it gets blasted apart, but it looks like it was a great one. Love the yellow cabinets and the old subway tile:
Dax Shepherd was a relative newcomer when he played the astronaut who comes by to help them (he’s now starring in the TV show “Parenthood”–I’m working on a post about that one, too):
All the trouble starts when 6-year old Danny finds this old game in the dark, dusty bowels of the basement and brings it upstairs. When they play it, the game comes to life all around them:
Frank Oz was the voice of this destructive, red-eyed robot:
The movie was based on a children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg, who also wrote Jumanji (another board-game-comes-to-life story) and The Polar Express, among others:
One of the illustrations from Zathura:
They had to shoot in order because the sets were destroyed by the end of the movie. However, because the house is (thankfully) back to normal by the final scene, they filmed it first.
In the producers’ commentary on the DVD, they talk about how you can tell that the child actors–especially the younger one who played Danny–look younger at the end because 6 months have passed. He also lost several teeth during filming, and they had to fill the gaps with fake ones.
If you love Craftsmans, then check out the posts I’ve done about Monster-in-Law and You, Me & Dupree. Coming up next week on Movie Monday: The classic Cary Grant-Katharine Hepburn comedy “Bringing Up Baby.”
Go to TV/Movie Houses to see more!