Recalling the Making of ‘Go,’ 20 Years Later

Katie Holmes and Sarah Polley in Go (Columbia Pictures)

In April 1999, Go was a fresh, different kind of movie: a story, starting at a Los Angeles supermarket on Christmas Eve, told from multiple perspectives. Toss in an ecstasy deal, a rave, a car chase on the Las Vegas strip, a bit of Tarantino-esque flavor, and a bunch of young adults in over their heads. And with not much money, director Doug Liman, then hot from Swingers, and screenwriter John August, who had yet to write something that actually made it to the screen, scrambled to make a film that was a bit scrappy and unpredictable, but — 20 years later — is something they’re proud of. At The Ringer, Eric Ducker writes about Go’s wild, unlikely production.

Liman has made other films that have grossed far more money, like Mr. & Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity. Some of his work is more beloved by film devotees, like Swingers and Edge of Tomorrow. Still, Liman considers Go his best film. …

There’s a scrappiness to Go that could only have been generated by a group of people who, much like the movie’s characters, often found themselves in situations where they were in over their heads. As the film’s editor, Stephen Mirrione, says, “One of the things I like about [Go] is it’s a movie about idiots that’s made by a bunch of goofballs, a bunch of knuckleheads.”

He employed many of the cost-saving techniques he’d developed on Swingers. He shot it on an Aaton 35-millimeter, a camera usually reserved for making documentaries in the days before everything went digital. He could reload the Aaton with film in a matter of seconds, while for traditional cameras it took at least four minutes and caused delays in shooting as everyone used those opportunities to relight the scene or take breaks. The only problem with the Aaton was that it isn’t constructed for recording dialogue and makes as much noise as a sewing machine, so Liman would wrap it in a down jacket as he filmed. “Jon Favreau used to describe acting in Swingers like acting for a big fluffy snowball,” says Liman.

While making Swingers, instead of trying to manufacture settings, Liman would just film scenes that took place in parties or at bars in actual parties or bars, using unassuming bystanders as extras. Before anyone got too upset or the police came, he’d be gone. For Go he adopted a similarly frenetic pace.

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