VANITY FAIR: Rihanna’s latest musical offering—the single “Sledgehammer,” from the soundtrack to the upcoming Star Trek Beyond—was released on Monday, and, days later, we have been gifted with a striking, visually arresting music video for the track, which features Rihanna (dressed in a red robe, and adorned with face markings) in an intergalactic setting, controlling the elements and otherwise appearing otherworldly and mesmerizing (so, basically, as she appears every day).
The video is also notable in that it is the first ever shot entirely in IMAX, so, even though you are watching it now on your candy-bar-sized iPhone, try to envision what it would be like to watch it on an enormous IMAX screen (the video will air in IMAX theaters).
The video’s director, Italian-Canadian Floria Sigismondi—who has directed a slew of music videos (featuring everyone from Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry to the Cure and Interpol), as well as the 2010 Kristen Stewart–as–Joan Jett film, The Runaways—told VF.com it was “important [for her] to create another world” in the video, which was shot about four hours outside of Los Angeles, in a remote town “in the middle of nowhere.”
“The song is about breaking down barriers,” Sigismondi explained. “Being for Star Trek, it’s all about exploration, exploration of the unknown . . . The idea of transcendence, transcending through these barriers, transcending through the blocks that we put on ourselves, and being sort of larger than life. For me, [Rihanna’s character] is kind of like this ancient alien living on this otherworldly planet, and she’s this mystical being that harnesses the power to manipulate the elements.”
Sigismondi said she worked closely with the makeup artist to come up with the right look for Rihanna.
“We wanted to really give her her own character. It’s about creating something ancient, almost otherworldly,” she said. “When you look at her movements, they’re just so unique and so beautiful. We wanted her to embody energy, in the way she moved. She’s just got those beautiful hands; creating all this great movement with her hands was amazing to watch. She is an abundance of energy, actually; she really gives it to you—it’s amazing.”
While Sigismondi—who is currently in the midst of casting for two feature films, Bouncer(based on the graphic novel by Alejandro Jodorowsky) and The Delivery Man (an adaptation of a Joe McGinniss Jr. novel)—said she didn’t get to spend “too much time together” with Rihanna, who has been on tour, in the development of the piece, but that Rihanna was “there 100 percent in the idea and the character,” and the two had a “synergetic kind of relationship, that just kind of flowed really naturally.” When they got to set, everything fell into place organically.
“We knew exactly what was supposed to happen. Let’s go do it—we know what the character is. We know what the feeling is.”
Sigismondi, who had never worked with Rihanna before, said she believes the star’s authenticity is what has set her apart.
“It’s probably that she’s so genuine. She puts herself out there, and it’s not made up. And that’s why people gravitate toward her. She’s . . . fearless in the way that she explores new things, and with her look, and with the videos she puts out there.”