Today Part 10, the final installment of J.J. Abrams 2007 “mystery box” TED Talk:
When I did Mission: Impossible 3, we had amazing effects stuff. ILM did the effects. It was my dream for them to be involved. And there were a couple of sequences in the movie like these couple of moments.
[Shows clip of lots of explosions from the movie]
So my favorite visual effect in the movie is the one I’m about to show you. And it’s a scene where Tom’s character wakes up, he’s drowsy, he’s crazy, out of it. And this shoves this gun in his nose and shoots this little capsule in his brain that he’s going to use later to kill him like bad guys do.
Okay, now, when we shot that scene, the actor who had the gun, Eddie Marsan, sweetheart, great guy, he kept taking the gun and putting it into Tom’s nose, and it was hurting Tom’s nose. And I learned this very early on in my career: Don’t hurt Tom’s nose. There are three things you don’t want to do. Number two is don’t hurt Tom’s nose.
So Eddie has this gun, and he’s the sweetest guy like, “I’m sorry, don’t want to hurt you,” and I’m like, “You gotta… we have to make this look like.” And I realized we had to do something because it wasn’t working as it was. And I literally thought back to what I would have done using the Super 8 camera my grandfather got me, sitting in that room. And I realized that hand didn’t have to be Eddie Marsan’s. It could be Tom’s. And Tom would know just how hard he could push the gun, he wouldn’t hurt himself.
So we took his hand, painted it to look a little more like Eddie’s, put it in Eddie’s sleeve. So that hand you see, that’s not Eddie’s hand, that’s Tom. So Tom is playing two roles. And he didn’t ask for any more money. So here, watch it again.
[Shows same clip again]
Tom’s hand, Tom’s hand. [applause] So you don’t need the greatest technology to do things that can work in movies. And the Mystery Box in honor of my grandfather stays closed.
* Mystery box all the time: Notice how even when Abrams tells a joke, he creates a mystery box. Check this out: “Okay, now, when we shot that scene, the actor who had the gun, Eddie Marsan, sweetheart, great guy, he kept taking the gun and putting it into Tom’s nose, and it was hurting Tom’s nose. And I learned this very early on in my career: Don’t hurt Tom’s nose. There are three things you don’t want to do. Number two is don’t hurt Tom’s nose.” There three things and number two is… yeah, but what is number one and number three? Mystery box!
* Mystery box as empowerment: You can do this. You can try this. Write a script? Make a movie? The tools are out there nowadays to make almost any sort of movie. And if you have an imagination and creativity to use the insights we’ve learned from this TED Talk about mystery boxes, there is no stopping you.
For Part 1 of Abrams’ TED Talk, go here.
For Part 2, go here.
For Part 3, go here.
For Part 4, go here.
For Part 5, go here.
For Part 6, go here.
For Part 7, go here.
For Part 8, go here.
For Part 9, go here.
I hope you enjoyed this breakdown and analysis of J.J. Abrams’ TED Talk. What did you learn from it?