Director J.A. Bayona recently visited New York Film Academy for a preview screening of The Impossible. The touching film, starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, is based on one family’s true story of survival of the Indian Ocean tsunami while on vacation in Thailand.
“The film talks about survival in an unconventional way,” said Bayona. “It talks about the suffering in survival. There was a huge commitment from the actors. We had a huge responsibility to tell this story.”
The idea for the story came when the film’s producer, Belén Atienza, heard the story on a radio show. Atienza shared the story the next day with director J.A. Bayona and writer Sergio Sanchez, with whom she had previously worked on the hit Spanish horror film, The Orphanage. The team was immediately convinced this was the project for them.
“Everything looked impossible at the beginning,” said Bayona. “Shooting in water, shooting with kids, shooting in another country, shooting in another language; it was epic.” The production featured over 1,000 extras, and shot on location in Thailand at the same hotel the survivors had stayed at. Naomi Watts spent six long weeks of filming in water. As Bayona put it, “You make your plans, you get there, and you change everything. That’s where you bring life to film.”
Taking questions from New York Film Academy students, Bayona reflected on his own time in film school in Barcelona, and the six years he spent teaching. He suggested following one’s passion to achieve success. “Use the knowledge you have from film school and then follow your instincts. Don’t pay too much attention to advice.”
The Impossible opens in theaters nationwide on December 21.