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X-MEN

About The Production
Principal photography began at one of Toronto's most popular film locations, the thirteen-acre Gooderham & Worts Distillery complex. Amidst the collection of 19th century industrial buildings and red bricked-paved streets, the cast, crew and over 350 extras slogged through ten inches of mud for two days, effectively creating the chilling concentration camp scene that opens the film.

The camp, replete with thousands of feet of barbed wire, German-language signs and gun-toting Nazi soldiers, was the first of almost 80 different sets or locations created by production designer John Myhre and his staff and crew of 200. Myhre jumped at the chance to do X-MEN after being Oscar-nominated last year for his work on Elizabeth.

"That's what I love about my job," says Myhre. "One day I'm creating an Indian village, the next day I'm in an Elizabethan castle, then I'm building an ultra-modem, secret underground laboratory for the world's most powerful telepath."

Among his favorite X-MEN designs are Xavier's underground lab, Magneto's Lair, and Cerebro, the global mutant-monitoring system housed beneath the Professor's Westchester, New York mansion.

"I liked these three sets because they provided the opportunity to show a little history between Xavier and Magneto," explains Myhre. "They once were colleagues and even friends, and we used that bit of history to connect their respective habitats. Cerebro was designed by both men, so in that set you'll see details that link their two opposing philosophies."

The X-Men's above-ground world is Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, which was designed as a beautiful, classic mansion, where mutant children could learn to find their places in a society that had shunned them.

The exteriors of Xavier's mansion were shot at the Parkwood Estate in nearby Oshawa, Ontario, while the Toronto landmark and tourist attraction Casa Loma was home for the interiors.

The X-Men's secret world, which Myhre calls "rabbit warrens of underground passageways," lies underneath the mansion. Unlike the two Toronto homes used for the exteriors, Myhre and his team had to design and build the laboratory from scratch.

"We wanted the underground space to be clean, sophisticated and elegant, reflecting Xavier's personality," says Myhre. "We used blue tiled walls, floors and ceilings to create a multi-purpose space that could be used as a research library, medical operating room, or even a meeting space.

By touching any of the blue panels that rested on the walls, floor or ceiling, the X-Men would have equipment and furniture available to them for any number of projects. It is a very utilitarian space, connected by hallways and sliding "X"-doors. In addition, the laboratory set was suspended from the ceiling, which opened up some creative lighting opportunities for director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel.

Cerebro also is located underneath the mansion. Myhre, using the same blue tiles and panels seen in Xavier's underground laboratory, constructed the three-story circular set on a sound stage at the headquarters of the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC).

Myhre also created an entire subterranean world for Magneto's Lair. "Magneto lives on and inside a very rugged, Spartan-like island," he says. "He has used his powers of magnetism to hollow out caverns and tunnels, which is why we employed a circular motif of metallic ore and water inside and outside the Lair. His magnetic powers also explain why we made all of his furniture is metallic."

The Lair's exterior included a huge steel monolith extending ten stories above ground — and fifty-two stories through the center of the Earth. The set was a combination of miniatures, digital paintings and a three-story section of monolith built by Myhre's team.

The mono

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