Rolling Ball Sculptures in "Fracture," the Anthony Hopkins Movie

Rolling Ball Sculptures, both desktop and 6ft high are featured in the 2007 Anthony Hopkins movie “Fracture.” These elaborate rolling ball machines serve as dramatic metaphors for the character of Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) and the story, symbolic of the many complicated and cunning plot twists to come in this clever up-to-the-minute suspense thriller.

Anthony Hopkins plays Ted Crawford in the movie ‘Fracture’, a wealthy L.A. aeronautical engineer, a precise, meticulous man who builds these rolling ball sculptures for amusement. In the lounge of his smart designer house is one such rolling ball sculpture – known also as kinetic art (sculptures that have movement), approx 6ft high by 6ft wide with shiny metallic tracks and carved wooden wheels, where small glass balls skitter and roll in an elaborately choreographed dance – a beautiful piece of precision machinery and dramatic art.

The machines are also known as ‘Rubes’, originally depicted by the famous cartoonist and engineer Rube Goldberg, ‘complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways’. It is difficult for a writer to describe these sculptures – they are whimsical, not only functional but very visual with all the workings on display.

The writer of the ‘Fracture’ movie came upon the idea of using a rolling ball machine in the movie ‘Fracture’ whilst playing with his son who likes marble mazes. The marbles roll through a labyrinth of confusing tracks only to come out in unexpected places.

The movie writer appointed Mark Bischof, a Dutch artist, to advise and oversee the special effects team who constructed the rolling ball sculptures for ‘Fracture’. Bischof had been working on kinetic art for over 10 years and he designs the sculptures to exhibit the slow release of energy of a guided ball along metal tracks. He uses track switching mechanisms, loops, spirals, drop-trough and other devices to demonstrate various aspects of this energy – the sculptures are enthralling.

The writer Gers, said “It’s always best when you can find an external sign to show the inner person (talking of Ted Crawford, Anthony Hopkins) but when I wrote the paragraph, I never really imagined the complex machine they would have to build.”

Several configurations of Bischoff’s designs were built on set. Anderson, the special effects director and his team were honored and excited to step outside the normal realm of their duties of pyrotechnics, explosives and mechanical effects to build the 8-foot sculpture along with a same-size “stunt double” version. Together they designed the kinetic brass sculpture and its wooden base to compliment the dynamic architecture of Crawford’s unique house.

The large sculpture measures 8 feet high x 8 feet wide x 2 feet deep and uses two 12-volt electrical motors operated via remote control, weighing about 250 pounds. The manual desktop version is about 14 inches x 32 inches x 12 inches wide.

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