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BIG TROUBLE

The Miami of "Big Trouble"
"One of the things I like to do is to take a fairly straight-ahead comedy and see if I can tell the story not only on a comedic level but also on a visual level as well," Sonnenfeld says. "Reading the book, I instantly felt that I could visually stylize the movie without it becoming self-consciously comedic. That's something that I find both challenging and rewarding. For instance, the fact that it takes place in Miami already makes it funny. All you need is a palm tree in a movie and you got a comedy."

The Miami location was also a plus for producer Barry Josephson. "Dave followed the old adage of ‘write what you know,'" he says, "and he's been a columnist for the Miami Herald for a long time. I think the reason why it's seamless for him to write this story and these characters in this setting is it's a setting he's lived in and written about for years. The book has an undeniable flavor, a nuance and reality to it that wouldn't happen had it been written by someone who was an outsider. He captures all the oddballs who populate South Florida as well as the feeling and the setting, captures it perfectly. Miami does happen to be a city where a lot of crazy things happen."

"Big Trouble" filmed in numerous sites in the greater Miami area. The Banyan tree where Puggy (Jason Lee) lives is located on the magnificent 450-acre Charles Deering Estate at Cutler, about half an hour's drive south from Miami Beach. Deering, who was the chairman of the board of International Harvester, made the property his winter home beginning in 1916. The State of Florida and Miami-Dade County purchased it in 1985. Devastated after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the Estate underwent a $12 million renovation, and is now one of South Florida's historic and natural treasures. Located along the edge of Biscayne Bay, the Estate contains a wealth of natural resources, including varied forest communities and numerous species of wildlife, in addition to important historic buildings and archaeological sites.

Due to the fact that the Estate is a public park and contains a delicate ecosystem and numerous endangered species of flora and fauna, the filmmakers had to contend not only with the heat and humidity of filming in and at the base of a huge Banyan tree, but with the flying and crawling creatures indigenous to the area. The mosquitoes had their own craft service for the several nights it took to film the scenes.

The Herk house, where much of the action of the film takes place, is located on a main road in Pinecrest, an upscale community a short drive south of downtown Miami. The filmmakers decided not to build the house on a stage, but to use what is referred to as a "practical" as the house itself afforded so much of what the script required, including a large backyard and gated front driveway. The lawn in the backyard was transformed from simple grass into a lush tropical garden to match the area surrounding Puggy's Banyan tree on the nearby Deering Estate. The swimming pool was also "reduced" to about one-third its normal size by adding what production designer Garreth Stover refers to as "a dance floor," affording room for the cameras to be capable of filming through the sliding glass doors and the living room to the front door.

The Jolly Jackal bar was a derelict building in downtown Miami adjacent to the Miami River. Production designer Stover said they wanted a location where the water played close by. "Water is such an integral part of Miami, we felt that we should see it near the bar. The building had the room and high ceilings we needed."

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