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THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE

About The Production
Besides attracting major talent in front of the camera, renowned director Jonathan Demme continues to draw highly skilled professionals to work with him behind the camera. Once again he collaborates with key members of his creative team: cinematographer Tak Fujimoto, ASC, production designer Kristi Zea, editor and Academy Award® nominee Carol Littleton, A.C.E., and composer and Academy Award® winner Rachel Portman, whose score features contributions by Wyclef Jean.

Demme began production at PS 32, an elementary school in Yonkers, New York, with a key scene that introduces audiences to Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) and to the inner conflict he's about to face. In the sequence, Marco, formerly in command of troops in the Gulf War and now relegated to the Army's public relations department, talks to a group of Boy Scouts about the ambush of his patrol in Kuwait and the heroism of Marco's staff sergeant, Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber). 

In order to film the crucial battle scenes that Marco describes at the school, Demme and his team did extensive research into the Gulf War, keeping full-time researchers and military advisors close at hand to ensure accuracy in every detail.

Since shooting in Kuwait was clearly out of the question, the filmmakers created the desert closer to home at the sand mine Sahara Sand. In only two weeks, members of the film crew moved tons of sand in order to build two roads that served as the site where Marco and his men fall under enemy attack. 

"Filming those battle sequences was like working in a huge sandbox,” recalls production designer Kristi Zea, who also created Marco's apartment in Washington, D.C. "I based the outside of his place after the typical mock-Tudor residential buildings I found in the D.C. area, but the interior design had a lot to do with Denzel Washington's input.” 

A small dark space filled with books and newspapers was the actor's idea, remembers Zea, who had originally pictured Marco to be meticulously neat, in keeping with his military background. Washington, however, imagined that the character's obsessive nature would turn him into a pack rat. 

"Maybe all Marco can do is hold himself together by putting on his uniform every morning,” says Washington. "But his house afforded the opportunity to paint a picture that was in stark contrast – full of signs indicating a man who is on the verge of an internal breakdown. I think he would be unbelievably messy, not able to throw anything out because he's obsessed with piecing together what happened to him.”

Zea also delved into the Washington, D.C., political arena that is the hothouse milieu of Liev Schreiber's character, Congressman Raymond Shaw, and his mother, Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw, portrayed by Meryl Streep. In particular, she sought striking visuals that would represent the high-stakes, national campaign of a Robert Arthur/Raymond Shaw ticket.

"I wanted to achieve a mood with Works Progress Administration (WPA) style posters that grew out of the 1930s Depression Era,” says Zea. "To achieve this, our graphic designers came up with some astounding stuff, including an eerie Arthur/Shaw campaign slogan, ‘Secure Tomorrow,' which was coupled with a visual akin to the ‘Uncle Sam Wants You' poster – a pointed finger coming out of a red, white and blue starburst.” 

The filmmakers' research included trips to the U.S. Senate, where they visited the offices of Senator Barbara Boxer in order to create an authentic look for the senatorial offices of Eleanor Shaw (Streep) and her political rival, Senator Thomas Jordan (Jon Voight). To that end, the historic Yonkers City Hall, an imposing Beaux Arts building dating from 1911, captured the old-world elegance and grave atmosphere of the senate. 

Similarly, the production sought out homes on the Potomac owned by our nation's more prominent politicians

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