Edinburgh firm does The Impossible for Ewan McGregor tsunami for movie

Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts star in The Impossible about the tsunami in Thailand in 2004
Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts star in The Impossible about the tsunami in Thailand in 2004
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AN Edinburgh firm has revealed how it recreated the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami for Ewan McGregor’s latest blockbuster movie.

Bosses at Edinburgh Designs said they were hired to recreate the devastating tsunami for The Impossible – a film starring McGregor and Australian actress Naomi Watts, which tells the real-life tale of a family’s battle for survival after the wave strikes their holiday resort in Thailand.

The firm, which employs ten people from its base in the south of the Capital, normally specialises in wave generators and equipment for marine and coastal engineering laboratories. It said recreating the tsunami – which killed over 230,000 people in 14 countries – presented a unique challenge.

Director Douglas Rogers said: “They wanted the dramatic first shot of the wave to look convincing and avoid the familiar CGI look of most blockbuster films.”

Bosses at the firm said a massive pool had to be built over a period of months at the Ciudad de la Luz film studio near Alicante in Spain.

Meanwhile, a scale model of the resort that features in the movie was built in Germany.

Mr Rogers said: “Most of our customers are looking for accurate, perfect waves. For The Impossible project, director Juan Antonio Beyona was looking for the opposite effect.

“His vision was a mean, ugly and chaotic wave; something that looked more evil that one dreamed up by the effects guys.

“We had to go right back to first principles and unlearn everything we knew about making precise waves to create something really messy.”

Mr Rogers’ colleague, Matthew Rea, described the moment the wave scene was shot as “incredibly tense”.

Mr Rea said: “There would only be one take then the model would be destroyed.

“We felt a burden of responsibility as technical failure would be an embarrassment to us and financial disaster for the producers. After hours of last minute attention to detail, we were ready to go. A torrent of a thousand tons of water with the power of eight F1 racing cars smashed through the model.

“The water towered like a wall above the model then smashed through the bungalows. One torrent rose like a menacing fist ready to hammer the buildings.

“The crowd burst into applause; it had all worked to perfection.”

Ms Watts said: “Physically [it was] the most demanding thing I’ve ever done.”

Over the past six years, Edinburgh Designs has manufactured a wide range of wave devices for clients across the world.