RETURN TO PARADISE
About The Production
Principal photography on Return to Paradise began in November
1997 in New York where cast and crew spent two cold, wintry months
before moving to Philadelphia to shoot three days in the City
of Brotherly Love's historic Eastern State Penitentiary, last
seen in 12 Monkeys. Dark and dank, it was lit only by a
sliver of light from a very high window and doubled as the Malaysian
prison where Lewis is held.
Since the production couldn't actually shoot in Malaysia for political
and security reasons, other areas had to stand in for the lush
landscape. Even some of the outdoor prison courtyard scenes had
to be shot at a fabricated prison in Hong Kong since shooting
in New York was done in the winter and the story was set in Malaysia's
tropical locale. To fill in for Malaysia, the production used
three ports of call -- Hong Kong, Macao and Thailand.
"Shooting in New York, Philadelphia, Hong Kong, Macao and
Phuket, Thailand presented us with many creative obstacles,"
notes Scott Koenig, the film's production supervisor for Asia.
"The crew came from New York to Hong Kong, which in itself
be a culture shock. From there, we moved to Macao, a 45-minute
boat ride from Hong Kong. After a week there, we chartered an
Air Macau jet and moved everyone to Puket. The crew went from
an extremely cold climate in Macao and Hong Kong to 90 degree
temperatures in Thailand. It was exhausting and exhilarating at
the same time."
Groom, costume designer Juliet Polcsa and director of photography
Reynaldo Villalobos chose to keep the set, clothing design and
overall look of the picture, dark in New York and light in Asia,
playing off the moods and weather conditions in both areas. All
three say getting everything right required an enormous amount
"We had three looks really," says Villalobos. "The
opening of the movie is on the island in Thailand. I changed film
stock to a very low speed to make it look like Technicolor. Very
colorful. The New York look is overcast and a little grungy. And
Hong Kong prison shots, which we had to match with the prison
in Philadelphia, went from dark to light."
Polcsa, who hired a costume researcher in Malaysia to assure authenticity,
complemented the cast's wardrobe to match the three looks. When
the actors are in Malaysia at the beginning of the movie, Polcsa
wanted the colors in their wardrobe to have a "light, easier
feel. When Beth comes to Sheriff and Tony in New York, I went
for a more stark quality, a gloominess. I used a lot of gray colors
and never white or bright colors on the actors until Beth comes
out of the prison in the end."
Villalobos says in the end the reason the film worked so well
is that everyone on board seemed to have the same vision. "Joe
Ruben," he adds, "really let the entire creative team
go for it."
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