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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 can

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 of research.

"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 the

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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