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XXX

Hollywood of Europe
After filming completed in California, the Triple-X company was off to the "Hollywood of Europe," the ancient, magnificent capital of the Czech Republic...Prague. This city of spires, red-tile roofs, cathedrals and castles has become one of the world's most popular locations, but all too often doubles for other cities. This time, Prague would most definitely be playing itself, with Cohen, director of photography Dean Semler, AM, ACS, ASC and the crew taking full advantage of the city's historic and atmospheric cobblestone streets, twisting alleyways, soaring cathedrals and superb architecture that spans the centuries.

Cohen, production designer Gavin Bocquet and director of photography Semler discovered a stunning array of locations, in the heart of Prague, the countryside and far south in the province of Moravia. Bocquet had worked in Prague twice before, as the production designer of Steven Soderbergh's Kafka and an episode of George Lucas' The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. He knew the city well, but there was so much more to discover. "The projects I'd done in Prague were very period based, and I always wanted to return to work on a film that was more contemporary," Bocquet notes.

Dean Semler was also excited to film Prague in a way that it never had been before: "I think that much of what we've been seeing are period stories with gaslight and candlelight, which tend to be softer. We're playing a full-on contemporary piece here, which allows us to give the city a different look. We're lighting a lot of historical interiors with full-on flourescence and neon, which give them a look they've never had before."

Filming in the brutally cold Prague winter began in a filthy ground floor apartment (made even more so by the art department)--Xander's "home" in Prague--in the narrow passages of Liliova Street in Prague's Stare Mesto (Old Town). Then it was on to the Eastern Czech mountain burg of Celna--quite literally almost the middle of nowhere--where the filmmakers had discovered a crumbling, de-sanctified 150-year-old church which was converted by Gavin Bocquet into one of the unique Anarchy 99 nightclub locations. Here, Cohen summoned German electro/metal band Rammstein--superstars in Europe--to recreate one of their highly visual concerts, replete with roaring flames, eccentric costumes and outer-limits makeup, as a backdrop to the film's opening sequence, which sets up the story. Hundreds of Czech extras, appropriately attired by costume designer Sanja Milkovic Hays and the hair and makeup department, were actual Rammstein fans recruited from their most recent performance in Prague, so little acting was required to cheer on their favorite band.

Another concert scene, a full-tilt rave featuring the popular British techno-duo Orbital (another nod by Rob Cohen to authentic European popular culture)—performing a song they composed especially for the film--was shot in a bizarre Soviet-era electronic testing station north of Prague, which Bocquet describes as "looking like something out of a 1950s Russian science fiction movie." Cohen decided to match the backdrop with the drama that unfolds in the sequence. "It's all about electricity, both the techno-rave location and what's happening between Xander and Yelena."

A bewildering number of historic locations were utilized by the filmmakers for XXX. The extraordinary exterior and Baroque rotunda of the State Castle of Vranov and Dyji was utilized as the headquarters of Anarchy 99. Originally built in the 11th century, the castle was reconstructed in 1687 by Austrian architect Johann Bernhard Fischer, painter Johann Michael Rottmayr and sculptor Lorenzo Mattieli, but none of them could possibly imagine that through the magic of the XXX art department, and then Joel H

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