‘Civil War’ VFX Supervisor Explains How They Pulled Off the Battle in Washington, D.C. | Video

A24’s “Civil War” is the No. 1 movie in the country for a second weekend. Part of what is bringing audiences in for Alex Garland’s provocative war drama are the elaborately staged battle sequences, like the climactic siege of Washington, D.C., that our heroes (war correspondents played by Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura and Cailee Spaeny) witness up close.

TheWrap spoke to visual effects supervisor David Simpson, and you can watch the exclusive video above.

“Literally every single visual effect in the film has a real reference – news footage, documentaries, clips people had filmed on their phone from war zones, ammunitions tests that had been documented,” Simpson said. “Those references were all given to Garland, with the team asking, ‘Which do you feel works best for the story?’ And you can feel that kind of verisimilitude in the movie; the sensation that you are with the characters are they are charging into these extreme situations.”

And no situation is quite as extreme as the climax in Washington, D.C., when the Western Forces, a group made up of the successionist states of Texas and California, make their play to bring down both the President of the United States (played, with cool detachment, by Nick Offerman) and the country as a whole. (There are veiled references to him occupying the White House for an unlawful third term and missile strikes against American citizens.)

“Originally, we talked about potentially flying a helicopter over D.C. and getting shots and then adding the destruction to them,” Simpson said about the big money shot featured at the end of original trailer for “Civil War.” “But there are a lot of limitations on flying a helicopter over D.C., especially near the White House. And the shot needed that geography.”

Instead, the team created everything – the helicopter, the battle raging on the ground, the buildings, the people – in the computer. This is quite a feat, especially since “Civil War” wasn’t made for Marvel Studios money. Still, they managed to pull it off spectacularly.

“Civil War” is in theaters now.

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