Bright imagines a world that looks a lot like our own, although it’s different in some surprising ways. The Netflix Original movie stars Will Smith as Daryl Ward, a human police officer. Ward’s partner, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), is an Orc. In the world of Bright, you see, humans and orcs coexist — though not always peacefully — in society. And that’s not all. They live alongside contemporized versions of other fantasy creatures like Elves and Fairies, too.
In the film, Ward and Jakoby must work together to prevent a powerful artifact from falling into the wrong hands and destroying everything they know. Behind the scenes, director David Ayer (Suicide Squad), faced a different challenge. What would our world — present-day Los Angeles in particular — look like if it humans shared it with races from fantasy lore? Ayer turned to production designer Andrew Menzies (Avatar, Fury) for the solution.
“Bright takes place in this interesting heightened reality,” Ayer says. “At the core it’s about Los Angeles, and it’s important to shoot the city as the city. This movie is all about reality. These characters don’t know that Orcs aren’t real, that Fairies aren’t real. They don’t know that magic isn’t real. But at the same time, there are these fantasy elements. It was important to me to create that seamless environment.”
“We crashed fantasy with the real world,” Menzies adds. “We enhanced what L.A. has to offer with all its different cultures. We used all those, and then we had the Elves and the Orcs and mingled them together.”
Menzies and his team developed a specific alphabet for the various fantasy races. “We tried to work out, what is the Orc-ish impression that’s imprinted on L.A.?” he says. “We developed a language for the movie that’s a real language for Orcs with an alphabet, and then added that Orc layer with advertising posters and writing so that you really feel like they have been integrated into this world for centuries.”
“Our signs actually say something in Orc-ish,” Menzies says. “If someone wanted to translate it, they could.”
Menzies and the crew transformed part of a Los Angeles neighborhood and the result is a place that looks familiar, but foreign. A touch of grit was added for realism, and to convey the idea of a dangerous world on the verge of devolving into chaos.
“We added a lot of litter to our sets because we wanted to feel like this society of Bright is on the brink of breaking,” he says.
“Everything’s a little bit worn, a little tired. The police cars are beat up. There’s a lot of conflict among the species, and everything is just frayed around the edges.”
The transformation made an instant impression on Bright star Will Smith. “The first day driving through the Orc neighborhood — it’s modern-day Los Angeles,” he recalls. “We’re cops and we roll up on this outdoor Orc barbecue, and there’s, like, an entire cow on a spit in the middle of a junkyard. It’s just this beautiful blend and collision of these fantastic worlds.”
“We were able to hit a couple of key locations that give our world scale and detail,” says producer Eric Newman. “Hopefully, that will make the audience think, Wow, down that alleyway, there’s a whole other world!”
Bright is only on Netflix — watch now.