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A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST

Battling the Elements in Santa Fe
Westerns are mostly written as exterior films, and that fact presented its own set of challenges. On one particular day of shooting, after the cast and crew had waited four weeks for the weather to clear up and for leaves to appear on trees, they were ready to roll. At eight o'clock in the morning, everything was brilliant. By 11 o'clock, there were 40-mph winds howling through the set. Then, the actors were visited by a swarm of bees and, finally, the cloud coverage appeared.

Clark explains the chaos: "Last year happened to be one of the most weather-active years they have had in a long time. We went directly from windy season into monsoon season. We had set up a sequence with Charlize to shoot at night, and it was going to be her last scene of the movie. We arrived on set, we lit the scene and we got about six takes in before it started raining continuously until three o'clock in the morning. We finally threw in the towel when the worst storm of the year came in from nowhere. After a second attempt at setting up the scene-that led to another evacuation because of flooding-we were able to regroup for one last try, and that's when we nailed it. As they say, the third time was a charm." Despite the beautiful scenery depicted, the set of A Million Ways to Die in the West was also hit with daily dust storms-much like in the Old West. Cast and filmmakers alike felt that this was one of the most weather-active locations in which they've filmed.

Theron says: "I have made several movies in Santa Fe, and I understand why people come here. It's incredibly beautiful to shoot. Out of all the movies, this is definitely a tricky season. We had days where there are these incredible dust storms and there is no way you can possibly shoot. But, at the end of the day, it really lends itself to the story, so I can't imagine us making this movie anywhere else." Albert hides among his wards.

The weather became a challenge for Lineweaver and his team, as it hampered the building of the sets. The production designer explains: "When we were building the county fair set, we would put tents up and then they would blow down. We were hampered, hampered, hampered by the weather."

Although most of the film was shot on the Old Stump set at Bonanza Creek, the production did venture out to shoot scenes in Jemez Springs, New Mexico; at the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad at the New Mexico-Colorado border; in Shiprock, New Mexico; and in Monument Valley. Clark discusses shooting in Monument Valley: "We wanted to have the epic scope of the classic John Ford Westerns. Monument Valley is such an icon of the West, and we hoped to create a world that feels like it has the scope of those classics- even though we were making a comedy. We didn't have to be flimsy about our choices."

Filmmakers were bold in their decisions of where to shoot, but it was worth it. Clark continues: "It's the kind of place where every single angle you look at is great. Our second day, a windstorm swept up Monument Valley and, despite the conditions, 50 mile-per- hour winds, the fact that we had to take down all the cranes and people had to huddle under a tent, there was something incredible about being on Ford Point where John Ford shot some of his most famous films."

In another set piece, in the scene where Albert and his horse take refuge in a railroad car after running from Clinch and his gang, Lineweaver and the filmmakers sought out an actual steam engine. So where do you find a steam engine in New Mexico? The Cumbres & Toltec Railroad. When the team first visited, the site was engulfed in 60-mph winds blowing snow. So they returned in June. Although it was still outrageously windy then, they had to power through. The railroad engineers showed Lineweaver an 1880s model steam engine, but it was torn apart. Then they showed the design team the cars. Everything needed to be rebuilt. Lineweaver shares: "They said they could have everything for us in four months, and they delivered. I literally shoveled coal in the steam engine to keep it running on the shoot day. It was remarkable."

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