Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 24 May 2019

Nicole Kidman revealed as Etihad’s brand ambassador

Etihad Airways invited The National to go behind-the-scenes of its latest television commercial starring its new brand ambassador, Nicole Kidman.
Director Anthony Atanasio chats to Australian actress Nicole Kidman while on set during an advertisement shoot for Etihad Airways. The shoot took place at the Etihad hangars at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Silvia Razgova / The National
Director Anthony Atanasio chats to Australian actress Nicole Kidman while on set during an advertisement shoot for Etihad Airways. The shoot took place at the Etihad hangars at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Silvia Razgova / The National

ABU DHABI // Onboard Etihad’s A380 Airbus in a dusty hangar at Abu Dhabi Airport, Nicole Kidman strolls through the floodlit luxury first class cabin and presses a finger to her lips as part of a scene being shot for the airline’s upcoming commercial.

With shadows dancing on her face — created by the lattice-effect lighting on-board — the Hollywood actor whispers a line and gazes into the camera before the director says “cut”.

Then she bursts out laughing. And promptly pokes fun at her last take. 

The creative team collectively smile; the Oscar winner is easy to work with; down-to-earth and self depreciating. 

Etihad Airways invited The National to go behind-the-scenes of its latest television commercial starring its new brand ambassador.

So hush-hush is the airline’s new celebrity spokeswoman that as she steps out of her trailer in a pencil fitting black dress and ushered on-board the double decker airbus ready for her first take in The Residences luxury suite, there are audible gasps.

Some assisting on the commercial shoot hadn’t even been told who — or how famous — the star was and until now Kidman has only been referred to as ‘The Talent’. 

Despite the sheer size of the superjumbo jet, with the directors, creative crew, management team, personal assistants, hairstylists, make-up artists, wardrobe stylists, technicians — to name but a few — all jostling for space it makes for a cramped filming environment during the February shoot.

The team talks us through the step-by-step ‘shooting board’ for the advert. Cutting between sequences on-board the A380 and in locations across Abu Dhabi and Prague, Kidman is representing the fountain of knowledge, innovation and thinking that is synonymous with Etihad Airways, explain directors Anthony Atanasio and Valerie Martinez. 

Kidman’s voice-over outlines the airline’s vision:

“Tear up the plans and start again,” she said. “We travel to the edge of knowledge and then take another brave step. We will see the future and tear down the walls to reach it. They insist the dream is possible. Overcome all indecision and take a running jump into the unchartered. They are bored by reinvention of the superficial kind. They want more. They want to reinvent the wheel. Even remove it completely. Because the goal is not to improve on what has been done before but to totally reimagine it. The new A380: flying re-imagined.” 

Her voice over is like a manifesto; a statement of vision of the type of people who do things different which is meant to be Etihad. 

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Mr Atanasio and Ms Martinez said shooting on an aircraft in a hanger in soaring temperatures presented a few challenges, no more so than space.

“At least we had a lot more space than perhaps we would have if we were on a smaller aircraft but the first thing we did was consider using anamorphic lenses — a system developed for Hollywood where you squeeze more information into a pice of film than you normally could. It does thus by bending the lights.”

The benefits of this, he shows, is that you have wide angle shots that show the spaciousness of the interiors without the shot becoming distorted. 

“And as for actors — it means your star looks fabulous,” he said.

When the directors — who have crafted films for other big brands including Levis, Audi and Nike — came on board for the Etihad project they knew it would be a big deal.

“What is fantastic is not just an airplane it is the A380,” said Mr Atanasio. “And is not just an A380 as well, it is Etihad. And Etihad, as we knew already, stood for some very high level elegance. 

“Then the fact the whole advert was about first class and The Residences. We were like: “The Residences; what is that? 

“When we looked after the photographs the first thing that came to mind was this is like a modern version of the Orient Express.”

Being the national carrier of the emirate, it was important that Abu Dhabi has a strong presence throughout the commercial as it had on the aircraft in the form of soft furnishings, materials and spaces; drawing influence from its rich heritage, culture and Arabian hospitality. 

The biggest influence was perhaps the forthcoming Louvre gallery in which a lattice design will feature heavily. This design was replicated on-board the A380 and then again in the commercial.

“We are going to be the first commercial in the world to show the museum’s interior,” said Mr Atanasio. “Because when we heard about it we said we have to find a way to make it appear that Nicole is inside the Louvre. 

“And that is exactly what we are doing. There is a theme of lattice work across the whole film.

He is referring to another scene Kidman shoots after wrapping up filing on-board. In the backdrop on the jet, Kidman appears to be walking through a 3D replica of the Louvre thanks to clever designing and mastery of film and light. 

It has created that synergy between Abu Dhabi, the aircraft and the commercial, he explains.  

Aside from the Louvre, Abu Dhabi’s other prominent architecture was present in the commercial with Nicole filming also scenes at Yas Hotel and Al Bahar Towers before boarding a plane to finish shooting in Prague.

“Epic and intimate was two predominant ideas that we came with; we wanted to examine the very small and the very big,” said Mr Atanasio.

“The epic comes in the form of Nicole Kidman and this plane. Then the intimate comes to all the attention to detail that we have inside.”

jbell@thenational.ae

Updated: March 14, 2015 04:00 AM

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