Tough production for Jake Paltrow’s sci-fi ‘Young Ones’

By Jessica Herndon, AP

PARK CITY, Utah — Jake Paltrow’s “Young Ones” was shot in South Africa over 35 days amid scorpions, snakes and an average daily temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, the crew was determined to make a film that star Kodi Smit-McPhee calls “truthful, but with a twist.”

A hybrid of Western and sci-fi genres, Paltrow’s second film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is a murderous tale of revenge set in the future when water is scarce and many have fled a fruitless land in search of a better life. Those who’ve stayed behind scrape by, while easily turning on each other.

Michael Shannon plays Ernest Holm, a tough yet warmhearted deliverer of supplies living with his children, Mary and Jerome, played by Elle Fanning and Smit-McPhee. Nicholas Hoult, as Fanning’s beau, Flem Lever, also stars.

“The landscape really puts you in the right mindset and really tells the story,” said Shannon in an interview at Sundance.

The tough environment took its toll on the production, Paltrow says. “There were a few hydration cases and accidents,” he said. “One of our production guys flipped a car. We were up on the sides of mountains.” Luckily, Paltrow added, the driver was fine. “He walked away.”

“Jake was very conscientious and was always wishing everyone to be careful,” said Shannon.

Paltrow’s first feature film, a comedy called “The Good Night,” premiered at Sundance in 2007 and starred Paltrow’s big sister, Gwyneth Paltrow. This time around, he says work on his second effort was especially difficult — and not just because of its challenging location.

Although Paltrow comes from a Hollywood family — his father is late producer-director Bruce Paltrow and his mother is actress Blythe Danner — the director says his lineage hasn’t made filmmaking any easier. In fact, his name only helped his career early-on, “when I got jobs as a production assistant,” he said. “But making your own films is a lot about trial and error.”

Paltrow’s career has mostly included directing television shows like “Boardwalk Empire” and “NYPD Blue.” But the filmmaker discovered that locking in the financial backing for his own feature was a huge struggle, especially considering his film tackles a serious environmental issue currently plaguing the West: drought.

“It’s a challenging subject,” said Shannon. “But it’s a pretty relevant subject matter. If you look at the struggles of the country, drought may be something we will deal with in the future. It deserves some attention.”