NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM SECRET OF THE TOMB
While enormous sets were built and filmed on sound stages in Vancouver, British
Columbia, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB also filmed on location in
London and New York City.
More scenes were filmed in the actual museums than in the previous two films.
Several were captured in the British Museum, including in the Great Court, the
largest covered space in all of Europe, and the Gallery of Enlightenment, one of
the oldest parts of the museum. "We brought our characters to the British Museum
because the more unreal the circumstance is, the more important it is for as
much of the film as possible to be grounded in reality," Levy explains. "That
means shooting with real people doing real things in real places, with
performances staying naturalistic and reactive in a way that feels relatable to
After doing some exterior location work in rainy London, the film crew moved
inside the British Museum. "We had access to this incredible place where you
would never have a chance to walk around by yourself," says Stiller. "We'd go to
a mark, and start a scene at the Rosetta Stone and finish it in the Age of
Enlightenment. There's nothing like being in the real location, that feeling of
the hallways and being there at night."
While much of the action in NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB unfolds in
the British Museum, it all begins - as always - at New York City's Museum of
Natural History. The production re-constructed the Main Hall set, and built new
sets for the interior as well as part of the exterior front entrance of The Rose
Center Planetarium. While the front entrance is quite similar to its real-life
counterpart, the interior of the Planetarium is a re-interpretation of the one
found in the museum. Production designer Martin Whist says his concept was that
"you could just walk straight in from street level and have three sides that are
open to New York City." And while the Rose Center is part of the Museum of
Natural History, the Planetarium is not connected to the Main Hall the way it is
depicted in the film.
The stage space at the aptly-named Mammoth Studios in Burnaby, near Vancouver,
is equivalent to more than four football fields, and the sets built for NIGHT AT
THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB took up almost all of it. For Whist, there were
myriad creative challenges. "We were dealing with a known institution, and there
were parameters for what we could and couldn't do," he says.
The British Museum has a very distinct look, but the art department modified
it. "We maintained the feel of a real, world-class, world-scale museum," states
Whist. "The British Museum is one of the greatest museums in the world, and we
needed to keep that scale and volume, which really sells that it's an old, large
establishment that millions of people visit every year."
Job one for Whist was "making sure we'd checked off the box marked, 'largest,
most impressive museum in the world.' The tools to do that are mainly scale and
volume. Then, we modified that to serve the script and become more visually
exciting and cinematic."
An army of gifted sculptors and painters worked tirelessly to create the Tomb of
Ahkmenrah. Most of the huge sculptures were made of foam, while the
hieroglyphics on the pillars and walls were carved out of Styrofoam. After much
research, Whist opted for a lot of blue in the Tomb because, "azure blue was a
very popular color, used in certain temples. It was a real sign of wealth and
dignity and a high-ranking color because the mineral had to be imported."
The production also filmed in the Canadian desert near Kamloops, British
Columbia, where over 200 crew members travelled to film the film's opening
sequence - which was shot over the last two days of production. On a sandy
hillside, a 1930s archeological dig site was created, bustling with dozens of
workers, dusty vintage cars, ornery burros and even a few camels.
Also making key creative contributions was award-winning costume designer
Marlene Stewart, who says working on the Night at the Museum films was "a chance
to do a mixture of historical characters and then add the fantasy element."
For Lancelot's costume, Stewart researched medieval armor over a 300-year
period. She says, "If one were to wear the armor that was 100 per cent
historically accurate, one would probably not be able to move. So certain
modifications are made - especially to facilitate flexibility and movement. Each
of the many pieces that made up the armor was sculpted out of clay, and molds
were made from those, which would then be turned out in plastic. Dan Stevens'
body was scanned, and the suit was created around his exact size. While not
nearly as heavy as a metal suit would be, the plastic armor was nothing close to
Then there was the chainmail (albeit rubber) on top of the suit. While Stevens'
costume weighed a challenging 50 pounds, Stewart notes that if it had been made
of metal, it would have weighed twice as much, and the chainmail would weigh
another hundred pounds. In all, seven suits of armor were made, each serving a
different purpose (and having a different weight!), some being more flexible
Stewart also had to "dress" the several mummies featured in the film. In
researching the ancient process of mummification, she learned that the linen
used was sometimes soaked in oils for up to six months before a body was wrapped
and placed in a sarcophagus. "They had many layers," she notes. "Kind of like
Russian dolls, one inside another. Often, a mummy is wrapped in different ways,
depending on what layer it was. We took the research, in terms of design and
implementation, but our mummies had to walk - and dance!" Preparing the fabric
for the mummy costumes was an intricate process. Large linen sheets were
over-dyed and cut into strips, and then they were aged to look 3,000 years old.
Stewart and the wardrobe department were responsible for nearly 4,000 costumes,
ranging from pre-historic Neanderthals, ancient Egyptians, ancient Romans and
mummies, to New Yorkers at a formal museum gala, cowboys in the Wild West,
African tribes, archeologists in the 1930s, modern day senior citizens, Civil
War soldiers and medicine men from Fiji.
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