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MISS CONGENIALITY 2 ARMED AND FABULOUS

Production Design
When asked for a sampling of the sets featured in Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, Pasquin takes an appropriate stream of consciousness approach: "We're in a number of Las Vegas hotels, we're at Fremont Street, which is downtown and a whole different atmosphere from The Strip. We're in the desert. We're underwater. We're on a pirate ship, in a shack, in various FBI offices. We're at the airport and in cars all over Vegas and New York. What have I left out? Oh yes, the drag club.”

Oh yes. The drag club… 

Christened The Oasis Club, the fictitious nightspot was created by production designer Maher Ahmad, "completely out of my imagination,” on a studio soundstage. A balance of ambiance and precise functionality, the lavish set piece was designed for a crucial scene in which Gracie and Sam must pose as performers to gain access to a key witness backstage. Although never intending to perform, the women are suddenly forced onstage in the chaos of events and find themselves nervously belting out a song to the packed house of boisterous fans in order to protect their cover. 

Ahmad's assessment of the project as a "labor intensive and materials intensive set” seems an understatement. "It's one of those sets that's not only about how it looks but how it works,” he says. "It has nooks and crannies, hallways and stairs and dressing rooms that communicate with each other for maximum circulation flow because the action involves people chasing around, finding and losing each other.” The scene also requires a performance runway with a grand staircase leading to the main floor and bar, where additional action occurs simultaneously with the show, all of which has to accommodate lighting and camera traffic. "A side platform,” Maher points out, "wheels out in about a minute with the release of only three screws, to allow access for a camera crane. The whole thing is as user-friendly as possible.”

In keeping with the club's moniker, décor took a distinctly exotic, Moroccan flavor. Lamps manufactured in North Africa complemented several grand chandeliers, crystal mixing with fabric canopies and richly detailed upholstery, and wallpaper designed and printed exclusively for the production. "The cocktail tables are made of fiberglass with glass tops so they could be under-lit, which is an idea I borrowed from a 1940s movie musical,” reveals Ahmad. 

Although the overall effect is smoky and intimate, he estimates, "There are probably about five thousand lights all told in the club, including the practicals and all these decoratives that blink and flash, plus rope lights and theater lights.”

Ahmad also ventured into the sunshine to scout locations for another key set, the kidnappers' ramshackle hideout where Stan and Miss United States are held. "The script called for ‘a desert shack in the middle of nowhere,'” he recalls, "so it had to be absolutely isolated.” Working within parameters set by the Bureau of Land Management, to preserve the largely untouched natural landscape, Ahmad found a spot in Jean, Nevada – a flat stretch set off by two small hillocks, with remnants of a deserted dirt road and a dry lakebed in the distance. 

Having found the perfect setting, it would be too much to ask that it have the right broken-down structure already on it. That had to be imported. Built in Los Angeles from a basic plan devised by Ahmad and Pasquin, the shack was then taken apart and trucked to Jean, where it was re-assembled on site. Once exteriors were shot, it traveled back the same way and was planted on a soundstage for interior scenes.

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