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About The Production
After a vast, transcontinental location search for an environment that could be transformed into medieval France, the filmmakers finally settled on Montreal. With that crucial decision resolved, it was then up to production designer Dan Dorrance and visual consultant Tom Sanders to create the incredible sets that would make the 14th century come alive. They also had to come up with a design and build the time-traveling device the group would use to get there.

"The most challenging set was the time-travel platform," recalls Dorrance. "Since we didn't have an actual machine to base it on, we had to start from scratch."

To begin, Dorrance and Sanders got some basic ideas for their design by visiting a few research laboratories in Northern California. Their initial offering was a laser-filled containment chamber, which was modified by director Donner.

Says producer Jim Van Wyck, "Dick had this concept of the group standing in a circular platform where there would be pivoting mirrors. That way, when you look at one character. you see the reflections of the others magnified many times over.

Once Donner ‘s concept was integrated into the design, the ITC set used over 90 full-size mirrored panels along with 20 tons of steel.

"It occupied an entire soundstage and was completely made of metal specifically steel, aluminum and copper," says Dorrance. "The idea was to give the set nice, clean lines, which would be the antithesis of the destination our characters ultimately would reach."

While cast and crew labored in the relative comfort of the soundstages, Dorrance and his team were well under way with another of the film's ambitious sets the fortress of La Roque Castle, a full-size recreation of a medieval castle. Although the same effect could have been created with special effects, director Donner was insistent that all the sets be built to scale.

"I certainly respect other filmmakers who use special effects and computer graphic imaging (CGI), but it's not the way I work" explains Donner. "I'm a holdout from the old school, and it's important to me to dive actors something with which they can interact."

Adds Lauren Shuler Donner: "All the castles that exist have artifacts from 2002 or 1985, or even 1890, but they're not as pure as they were in the 1300s, so we came to the conclusion that we would have to construct our own castle. It was ultimately less expensive to build and add effects that we might need later."

Dorrance began his research by visiting castles in England, Germany and France, as well as by consulting numerous books. His final design, however, is based on a castle that stands in the Dordogne Valley, the site of the movie's action. When he and his team first began to work on the structure, he found himself in a snow-covered field, but luckily Montreal had one of its lightest winters, and 1 3 weeks later, a medieval castle stood ready to be captured on film.

"We had an incredible construction team," says producer Jim Van Wyck. "Our co-producer Kevin De La Noy put together a group of plasterers he'd worked with on ‘Braveheart,' who we brought over from the U.K. to teach the locals their method of taking physical molds of real stone to cast plaster replicas. We would see miniatures and pictures of the castle while they were being built," Van Wyck continues, "but it was nothing compared to actually walking on the set and seeing the completed structure. In fact, everybody's mouths dropped when they first saw it. You had to go over and touch the walls to realize that it wasn't actually stone. It looked<

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