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A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST

Creating Albert's Town
Since A Million Ways to Die in the West is set in the Old West in the 1880s, the filmmakers decided to travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to tell the tale. Stuber offers that there were more than a few challenges: "When you think of filming a Western, you have to realize that few of those towns exist anymore. Thankfully, there are about four in New Mexico and a few in Arizona, so they were applicable to what we wanted. We needed Albert's farm, the town itself, Louise's house and the barn dance, and it was great luck that 80 to 90 percent of our locations were available as practical ones."

MacFarlane continues that the team wanted the comedy to look and feel like a film that could stand with an old John Ford Western. He says: "We went everywhere from Jemez Pueblo, which is gorgeous, to Monument Valley, which is legendary. Our director of photography, Michael Barrett, is an extremely talented photographer. He's an expert in lighting and knows what I mean when I said, 'I want you to feel like you're shooting a drama.' He lit and angled it beautifully."

The town of Old Stump was created at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, just south of Santa Fe. The ranch is spread out over thousands of acres and features more than five ponds, one movie town and two home sets. More than 130 movies, as well as various videos, commercials and catalog shoots, have been filmed there. The filmmakers transformed the movie set into Old Stump: a town that is, well naturally, built around a stump.

During the scout, production designer Stephen Lineweaver looked at many of these towns and knew that there would be only one that MacFarlane was going to like. When the director arrived, he said, "Yep, this is it." Although the area in which the filmmakers wanted to create Old Stump was small and quite dilapidated, they saw a diamond in the rough.

Lineweaver and his team came in, built 3D models of the existing town and started to plot a faƧade of buildings and streets to artificially double its size. In every direction, they placed buildings, windmills, water towers and a church. The team then went in and gutted the interiors of each building. In fact, Old Stump took nearly three and a half months to build.

Lineweaver describes the process: "When I came here with Seth, the challenge was that we fell in love with the town, but it was about half the size that we wanted it to be. So, the first task was to pick what we had, illustrate how we would expand the town and create additions. It opened up a little too clearly to all the four exits, so we created a lot more visual information and architecture to double the size. It was also a bit run-down, which is what we liked about it, so we had to put it back together."

To inform every detail in Old Stump, the filmmakers tirelessly researched the Old West so the look would be as authentic as possible. Lineweaver says: "We wanted everything done the way it was back in the day. We have been sticklers for detail and authenticity. Seth and I collaborated on this, and our edict was to make the scenery real and make the jokes funny."

"We wanted the scope and the look to be completely in the world of an 1880s Western, but also wanted it to feel rich and colorful. Not Technicolor, but it should feel like a Western of its day, not down and dirty and dark," Clark adds. That was down to every small building, including Foy's workplace. One of the set pieces is the moustachery, where Foy plies his wares to the successful men of Old Stump. "Our research found that having a moustache was a show of wealth. A big moustache or muttonchops showed that you were a man of means."

A county fair was created in the middle of Old Stump, complete with shooting games, photographers, barkers selling potions and elixirs and a freak show. Oh, and death. Lineweaver laughs: "Yes, we do have deaths at the fair. This is A Million Ways to Die in the West. But, the fair is something that we had a lot of fun with. It's a fair set in the Old West, so we were trying to make it as cheerful as possible." He pauses, "But people will die here."

Clark adds that much work had to be done to create the county fair, the stage for one of the biggest sequences in the script. The producer says: "It is actually more than 10 pages with multiple story beats, stunts and action. So, there we were shooting exteriors with a couple hundred extras, and we had to manage the weather every day. Added to the schedule was the fact that stunts and effects needed separate passes of camera angles. In addition, we had many animals, including a bull that had to run through the middle of the fair."

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