Rolling Ball Sculpture and 'Fracture', The Anthony Hopkins Movie

Rolling Ball Sculptures, both desktop and full size play a central part in the Anthony Hopkins movie ‘Fracture’ 2007, these elaborate rolling ball machines serve as dramatic similes for the polished personality of Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) and the storyline itself, symbolic of the various complex and cunning plot twists to appear in this sharp up-to-date suspense thriller with a dynamic ending.

Sir Anthony Hopkins, the illustrious Oscar-winning British actor, plays Ted Crawford in the movie ‘Fracture’, an affluent L.A. aeronautical engineer, a precise, meticulous person who constructs these rolling ball sculptures for amusement.  In the living room of his smart designer house is one such rolling ball sculpture – known also as kinetic art (sculptures that have motion), 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 fine-looking piece of precision equipment and dramatic art.

The rolling ball sculpture are also referred to as ‘Rubes’, or ‘nonsense machines’, firstly depicted by the celebrated cartoonist and engineer Rube Goldberg, ‘involved devices that perform straightforward tasks in indirect, convoluted ways’.  It is hard for a writer to describe these works of art – they are quirky, not just practical but very visual with all the workings on show.  

The writer of the ‘Fracture’ movie hit upon the idea of using a rolling ball machine in the movie ‘Fracture’ whilst playing with his son who enjoys marble mazes. The marbles roll through a jumble of bewildering tracks only to come out in surprising places.

The movie writer appointed Mark Bischof, a Dutch artist, to advise and manage the special effects team who produced the rolling ball sculptures for ‘Fracture’.  Bischof had been working on kinetic art for over 10 years and he models the sculptures to show the slow discharge of energy of a guided ball along metal tracks. He uses track switching workings, loops, spirals, drop-trough and other devices to demonstrate diverse facets of this power – 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. When I saw it on stage, I kept apologizing to the guys who had to build it!”

Several configurations of Mark Bischoff’s concepts were constructed on set. Anderson, the special effects director and his team were privileged and excited to step outside the regular realm of their duties of pyrotechnics, explosives and mechanical special effects to erect the 8-foot rolling ball sculpture along with a same-size “stunt double” version. Together they designed the kinetic brass sculpture and its wooden base to fit in with the designer structure of Crawford’s (Anthony Hopkins) exclusive home.

The large rolling ball sculpture in ‘Fracture’ 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 tabletop style is about 14 inches x 32 inches x 12 inches wide.