McGill on the Silver Screen

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McGill Reporter
May 27, 2004 - Volume 36 Number 17
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 36: 2003-2004 > May 27, 2004 > McGill on the Silver Screen

McGill on the silver screen

He may not look like Dennis Quaid, but Wayne Pollard influenced his character in this summer's disaster movie about climate change, The Day After Tomorrow. In the movie, glaciers melt, leading to a catastrophic cooling of the planet. New York City freezes, and Dennis Quaid, who plays an academic from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admistration, has to go into the frigid blight to rescue his son.

Wayne Pollard's McGill office: pilfered for props for The Day After Tomorrow

Claudio Calligaris

While the movie was filming in Montreal in the fall of 2002, the producers consulted Pollard, the director of the Centre for Climate and Global Change Research and chair of the Canadian Committee for Antarctic Research, about the science of the movie. "The scientific aspects are inaccurate in some ways, and far-fetched in others," Pollard said.

Pollard, a specialist in both the Arctic and Antarctic, explained that the movie's epic take on extreme climate change is exaggerated. Sure, thermal haliene, the oceanic circulation system that redistributes heat around the globe, has its variations, but it's not likely to cause any gelid doom. The real worst-case scenario? Increased frequency of extreme weather, rising sea levels and increased droughts, said Pollard. Earth goes through warm cycles and cold ones, averaging about 20,000 years, he explained. We're in a longer warm phase than usual, expected to last about 50,000 years, on top of which are added the effects of global warming brought about by human manipulation. Pollard said that human settlement patterns are based on the climate of only the last 10,000 years, and since we've always lived on the edge of habitability, pushing technology to the max of its productivity, we're caught with our snowpants down. "The response is abrupt, the change is gradual."

Caption follows
Dennis Quaid plays an expert on climatology

Although the writers didn't take his script suggestions into stride, the set designers decided that Pollard's office was that of a typical academic and plundered it for props to decorate Quaid's office. They took decades' worth of journals, field note books and research posters and a few fossils (one of which came back broken). They poked around his cold room, documenting the kind of drills Pollard uses to sample ice, and the equipment used to analyze it. They borrowed satellite composite maps of the Antarctic from his office, and posters from the hallways. For weeks, a trail of photographers tromped in and out. "It was a little bit of a circus," Pollard said.

So, did they pay well? "Not particularly," Pollard laughed. The fee was equal to maybe a few hours of his regular consulting rate. He did make money by renting them weather stations, the fee for which went back to his northern field stations in Schefferville and Axel Heiberg Island.

Coming soon to a small screen...

Channel surf to campus on June 15 at 9 pm on Showcase (or Oxygen in the States). There you'll see the first episode of "Naked Josh," the cheeky new program about Oxford grad Josh Gould (David Julian Hirsh, Leap Years), returning to Montreal to become the youngest anthropology professor in the history of his university (named McAlister). From the leafy outdoors of McGill campus and the wood-panelled interiors around the city, Josh nurses a broken heart and longs for love in Montreal while teaching a course on sexual anthropology.

"Naked Josh" is Cirrus Communications' first foray into English programming. Eight half-hour episodes were shot in town last fall, and it'll be easy to play spot the familiar barfront, stripclub or greystone building.

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