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The Locations
Principal photography began on April 28, 1997, in the Studios Arpajon, near Paris

Principal photography began on April 28, 1997, in the Studios Arpajon, near Paris. Although the majority of the film was shot on stages, the production spent nearly five weeks on location in some of France's most beautiful castles.

Over the 14-week shoot and during the preparation, The Man in the Iron Mask occupied eight out of the nine stages available at the Studios d'Arpajon, as well as the roughly 100,000 square-foot "Stage 4000" at nearby FertÈ-Allais.

Production designer Anthony Pratt and his team built approximately 15 different sets on these stages, including the various waterways seen in the film. "The water passages set was the most difficult," Pratt remembers. "Originally the idea was to try and do it by a river somewhere, which would be close to impossible to do at night since real rivers are impossible to control."

Building the palace waterways and pump room at FertÈ-Allais took eight weeks and utilized a large water tank with a high pressure system. This stage was then converted into the interior of a fortress complex and the waterline gate, and finally it became the French coast, complete with a small cove and genuine living seaweed.

The Bastille Corridor and Complex was built on stage nine, which took five weeks to assemble for a 10-day shoot. That set was struck to be replaced by the magnificent King's palace -- a set comprised of three interconnected rooms: the King's Bedroom, the Palace Corridor and the Queen's Apartment. "Once the Bastille was actually struck from that stage, the construction crew led by Jean Poinot had four weeks to put everything up. They had pre-fabbed a few elements before but, even so, the quality of the sets is astonishing," Pratt notes.

"I was surprised by how grand the sets actually were," director Wallace recalls. "Tony did a beautiful job. I had to be careful not to be tempted to shoot a grand set just to capture its beauty. I wanted everyone involved in this show to be inspired and excited and to feel that they were working on something really special, but that what made it special was not that our sets were bigger or more expensive, or the costumes grander, but that our story was powerful and worth telling, and the sets were all in support of that."

The great estate of Vaux-le-Vicomte has a history which involves many real-life counterparts to the characters who populate the castle in The Man in the Iron Mask. In 1641, Nicolas Fouquet purchased the estate, some 40 miles away from the capital. The 26 year-old financial secretary to Cardinal Mazarin enlisted three great artists, the architect Louis Le Vau, the decorator Charles Le Brun and the garden designer Andre Le Notre, to improve the property. Unfortunately, by 1661, Fouquet's fate was sealed by Mazarin's private secretary, Colbert, who planned to ingratiate himself to the young King Louis XIV by laying all the blame for the kingdom's financial ills at Fouquet's feet. In August of that year, Fouquet hosted a magnificent party at which the guest of honor was the King himself. Three weeks after this lush affair, he was arrested by d'Artagnan and sent to prison, where he died in 1680.

By then, another palace had overshadowed Vaux-le-Vicomte in the eyes of the nation: Versailles. Now privately owned but open to the public, Vaux-le-Vicomte remains the precursor of Versailles, which was built and decorated by the same trio.

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