Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) looking in mirror, Source: Spider-Man (2002),
Credit: Sony Pictures
It's actually surprisingly hard to film mirrors in movies. The biggest problem is trying to avoid showing the camera and crew in the reflection. But some movies have made shooting mirror scenes even more complicated. Here are five scenes in sci-fi movies that looked good, and were surprisingly complex in the production.

1. Spider-Man (2002)

The Shot: When Peter Parker looks in the mirror, he has a scrawny little body. But after he's bitten by a genetically engineered spider, he looks in the mirror and discovers he's bursting with muscles.
How They Did It: Even though it looks like the two scenes were shot overnight, they weren't. One of the first scenes they ever shot in production was of the skinny Peter Parker. After that, they shot other scenes while Tobey Maguire worked out for six months doing weight training and martial arts. Once he'd bulked up, they shot the post-superpowers body in the mirror. Oh, and in case you're wondering, the glasses you see going up and down are a gigantic lens they moved in front of the camera.

2. Mr. Nobody (2009)

The Shot: In one scene, Jared Leto's character approaches a mirror, and the camera zooms in. He then walks away from the mirror and the camera follows him through the glass on the other side.
How They Did It: What looks like one shot is actually two. The first shot is of Leto crossing the room and approaching the "mirror." In reality, the mirror was blank, a green screen. When they shot the second time, Leto became his own reflection. He approached the camera, copying his movements from the first shot in reverse. Then he walked away, and the shot continued. By superimposing the second shot on the mirror, the camera seems to go through the looking glass.

3. Sucker Punch (2011)

The Shot: In the dressing room, we see the girls talking in the mirror as they make themselves up. The camera pans around the table,and passes through one of the mirrors, where we see them talking to their reflections from the other side.
How They Did It: In fact, the women in the foreground are body doubles. They're sitting in front of empty frames instead of mirrors, copying the movements of the actresses on the other side. If you look closely, you can see their choreography doesn't quite match up. Once they swing through a false wall to the other side, the mirrors are replaced and become real.

4. Terminator 2 (1991)

The Shot: In this scene, the Terminator watches in a mirror as Linda Hamilton's character opens his head and removes delicate circuitry. The camera is right in front of the mirror the whole time, but we never see it.
How They Did It: The trick here, once again, is that there is no mirror. What we see is an empty frame with the set, Linda Hamilton, and Arnie on one side. In the foreground, they had an animatronic head of Arnold Schwarzenegger with Linda's twin sister (yes, she has one) copying her. By carefully choreographing their movements, it looked like we saw a mirror and the reflection of the Terminator getting his head examined.

5. Contact (1997)

The Shot: We see the young Jodie Foster character running up the stairs to the bathroom mirror, where she opens it and gets a medicine bottle, all in one smooth shot.
How They Did It: Actually the hardest part of this shot wasn't the mirror. It was the camera chasing her up the stairs and down the hallway. A Steadicam operator had to run backwards in front of her as she ran through the scene. When she got to the mirror, it was really another green-screen substitute. When the cabinet door closes, it's another shot in reverse. The effect is almost flawless-except, they forgot to match her sleeve.

Which mirror movie scene was your favorite?

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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

They did forget to match her sleeve!
I knew they'd used Hamilton's twin for Terminator 2, but not for that shot. Very clever.

Clarissa Draper said...

I never knew it was so hard to film those scenes. Wow, hard work.

Mia Hayson said...

That scene in Contact is so clever! I didn't even think about how hard it would have been to do. <3

Pat Dilloway said...

I knew about the Terminator one from watching a bonus feature on an old VHS version of the movie. It is amazing the lengths filmmakers have to go to to get stuff like that, though I suppose it's easier now with CGI and whatnot.

jeremy [retro] said...

very interesting... i enjoyed the t2 the best.


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