When she was 13, during her days as a teenage fashion model, Milla Jovovich had been called by critics as "The New Brooke Shields". Brooke Shields played Emmeline in the original movie, which this movie is a direct sequel.
A sequel to The Blue Lagoon (1980), this movie was made and first released about eleven years after the original movie. However, the movie has often been considered "virtually a remake of the 1980 version" as Halliwells have noted.
On Taveuni island in Fiji, production designer Jon Dowding began work on the movie's main set pieces some sixty days before the cameras began rolling. Having served as the art director on The Blue Lagoon (1980), Dowding welcomed the opportunity to expand and improve upon his work from the earlier film. Both Dowding and his wife, wardrobe designer Aphrodite Kondos, drew extensively upon the cultures of Oceania for the design elements of "Return to the Blue Lagoon". Dowding said: "In addition to the rich cultural influences of Fiji, Australian aborigines, New Guinea, Micronesia, Melanesia, the Marquesas, and Easter Islands, we made every attempt to use raw materials found on Taveuni in the construction of the props, sets and costumes.".
While filming was indeed difficult at first, idyllic conditions prevailed as soon as Milla Jovovich and Brian Krause began their scenes. As if on schedule, breathtaking seas of deepest blue and endless azure skies highlighted the filmmaking activity on an expansive white sandy beach outside the village of Lavena. Maravu Beach, Bouma Falls, which cascades into a beautiful pool, and a swamp at Vunitai'awau, also proved to be spectacular locations as filming progressed. A climactic sequence was filmed in a shark channel at Vurevure by underwater photographers Ron Taylor and Valerie Taylor, who at the time were considered by many to be the foremost underwater photographers in the world.
The first part of "Return to the Blue Lagoon" focuses on the struggles facing Sarah, a widow played by Lisa Pelikan, as she adapts to the sometimes harsh realities of life on a tropical island with two infants in tow, daughter Lilli and Richard, whose parents died at sea. Over the next eight years, Sarah educates the children in the hopes of one day returning to the civility of her former life in San Francisco. Since a large part of the film was shot sequentially, co-producer Peter Bogart saw the inclement weather as a blessing in disguise: "The unpredictability of the weather introduced a darker element to the earlier part of the film which is wholly appropriate. It is the reality of paradise.".
Taveuni in Fiji, the only land mass in the world that the international date line runs through, proved in the end to be a challenging but rewarding filming location of singular beauty. Cast and crew alike traveled countless miles on the island's only thoroughfare, bouncing along an unpaved dirt road with harrowing curves to reach filming sites. Equipment was hauled in on stretchers through thick jungles and brought in on barges through dangerous coral reefs for some of the less accessible locations.
Star Milla Jovovich said of this movie for the movie's production notes: "I think that the idea of falling in love on a deep and spiritual level without the distractions of the material world will always be appealing.".
The movie was nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards at the 12th annual ceremony in 1991. The movie was nominated for Worst Picture and Worst Director - both for William A. Graham, Worst Screenplay - Leslie Stevens with two noms for Worst New Star - one each for the film's leads Milla Jovovich and Brian Krause. But the movie failed to win a Razzie in any category.
Because the early part of the film features extended passages without dialogue, director William A. Graham enjoyed the opportunity to tell the story in pictures and images. Graham said: "To advance the story in images is a welcome challenge and makes for a highly cinematic film. Above all else, 'Return to the Blue Lagoon' is a highly visual film.".
The movie's opening prologue states: "The South Pacific Ocean 1897. Fifteen years before our story begins, two children were shipwrecked on an uncharted island. The little boy and girl grew up alone in this lost paradise. As man and woman, they discovered a pure and natural love. In time, a child was born. But in a tragic accident, they were driven out to sea away from their island. Drifting for days, they believed that their lives and the life of their baby were at an end. Then a passing vessel drew near . . . ".
This major motion picture was filmed on Taveuni, one of three hundred islands in the Fiji archipelago. With an average of four hundred inches of rain a year, Taveuni is usually overgrown with magnificent greenery and is rightly referred to as Fiji's "Garden Island".
A year before filming began, executive producer Randal Kleiser handpicked the location, which was further explored by co-producer Peter Bogart, producer-director William A. Graham and production designer Jon Dowding. Shortly thereafter, preparations for the picture began in Australia, Taveuni island in Fiji, and Los Angeles, California, USA during an extended pre-production period.
While director William A. Graham saw thousands of hopefuls at open auditions during a nationwide talent search before deciding on Milla Jovovich and Brian Krause, producer Peter Bogart was finalizing the countless details mandated by shooting a movie on an island location that is only accessible by a weekly ferry and a tiny grass landing strip for small planes.
In 1980, producer Peter Bogart, who had worked as unit production manager and first assistant director on The Blue Lagoon (1980), said: "We took everything we learned on the first film and applied it to the making of this venture. The logistics of making a film are always a challenge. However, when you are filming on a remote island in a foreign country, it is even more challenging since you must anticipate everything you need and bring it with you.".
Production designer Jon Dowding employed the invaluable assistance of a Fijian crew who helped with the selection and use of exotic island materials in the handcrafting of many of the film's design elements. While Dowding credits director William A. Graham with giving him a tremendous amount of artistic freedom, the director was effusive in his praise of the designers. Graham said: "Jon Dowding and Aphrodite Kondos have made major contributions to this film. Dowding has not only created the best set piece I've ever had the opportunity to work with, he was actively involved in all of the visual aspects of the film, including the choice of locations as well as the look of the props and wardrobe.".
The production team also displayed an exemplary concern about preserving the island's ecological balance during the making of the movie. When a mile-long path had to be cut through thick jungle vegetation to get equipment to one of the movie's more difficult locations, the chief of the local village assured the production team that it would grow back within a matter of months.
With the commencement of filming in June 1990, which is the dead of winter in Fiji, nature began to play a major role in "Return to the Blue Lagoon". Director William A. Graham said: "When we [the production] first visited the island in early 1990, the weather was perfect. As soon as we began filming, we quickly learned why Taveuni is called the Garden Island. It rained for two weeks straight, which would certainly account for the lush tropical foliage." Despite the adversity of working under less than ideal conditions at first, Graham remained undaunted and survived with his sense of humor intact. Graham added: "The reason you have a seventy day shooting schedule on a film like this, as opposed to forty to fifty days, is that you attempt to anticipate the unpredictability of nature. While we didn't get the puffy clouds and blue waters everyone expected initially, the island presented us with a whole other kind of beauty. Nature exerted an undeniable force in the making of this movie, which the film journalists will probably give me credit for. I can see it now: William A. Graham wisely avoided the clichéd postcard look of paradise'.".
Despite an arduous shooting schedule, and the fact that virtually everyone associated with the production had to be treated for a wide variety of tropical maladies during the course of filming, co-producer Peter Bogart acknowledged that "the cast and crew rallied together to make this film. As physically demanding as filming has proven to be, we all feel the romantic fantasy of the film has been heightened by the realities of life in the tropics". Director William A. Graham added: "When you have to fight to get every shot, a film like this inspires your creativity as opposed to exhausting it." Moreover, executive producer Randal Kleiser believed that "in the end, you really have to go out of your way if you want to truly transport an audience".
Filming was further complicated by extensive sequences at sea in high surf with Sarah and the two infants. Director William A. Graham, an avid sailor and father of an infant daughter, faced the challenge with the consummate skills of a veteran filmmaker with nearly eighty projects to his credit. Graham said: "While conventional wisdom has proven that working with children, animals and boats can be trying, the rewards are also beyond what one can imagine. When you're working on a film like this with so many unpredictable elements, you never really expect things to go according to plan. You simply get what you can, when you can. You can get a performance from infants, for example, but it requires an enormous amount of patience. What they ultimately give you is so fresh and so wonderful that it is worth all the effort.".
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The First Mate (Gus Mercurio) who picks up the crying baby and gives him to Sarah (Lisa Pelikan) was also on the ship that found Emmeline, Richard and Paddy at the ending of The Blue Lagoon (1980). In the previous movie, he stated to the captain, "No, sir, they're asleep", even though in the sequel, Emmeline and Richard are dead.