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SAHARA

Into The Desert
"The word ‘Sahara' actually means ‘desert,”' says Matthew McConaughey. "And that's what it is — all that's there is the heat and the sandstorms. It's wide open — you look around, 360 degrees, any direction you want, and there's nothing out there. It's wide open.”

On location in Morocco, the company shot in several locations, including a lake near Marrakech, but most of the desert locations were filmed near Erfoud, a tiny town on the edge of the Sahara, near the Algerian border.

"It's really amazing how the film industry has sprung up there — a decade ago, nobody went to Morocco, but now, they have a history of making big movies,” notes Breck Eisner. "They're open to film productions and are very helpful in a way that other countries can't be; for example, we were able to lease three tanks, 10 armored personnel carriers, and Huey helicopters — basically, an entire armored division. The crews were experienced and very, very hard workers. They really know what they're doing now.”

Marrakech is the center of film activity in Morocco, but the film's many desert sequences required locations far from the bustling city. The filmmakers found their spot in the small town of Erfoud, a tiny spot in the northeastern part of the country, near the border with Algeria. "Erfoud is in the middle of the desert,” says McConaughey. "You sleep like a baby.

Rainn Wilson describes how one gets to such a remote part of the world: "You fly Los Angeles to London, London to Casablanca, Casablanca to Ouarzazate. You land there at midnight after 24 hours of flight time. There are no lights. You go to bed, and then you get up at 8:00 a.m. and get in a car for a seven-hour drive to Erfoud. This town was one of the last stops before the Sahara — there's a French Legionnaire's fort just outside the town.

"It's so beautiful out there,” Wilson continues. "There's something mesmerizing about the desert.”

For veteran production designer Allan Cameron, that nothingness made Morocco a natural choice for the look of the film. "You can't make a movie called ‘Sahara' without eventually ending up in the desert,” he says.

Cameron has designed enormous action films before — two "Mummy” films and "Tomorrow Never Dies” are on his resume — as well as productions filmed in Morocco (most recently, "The Four Feathers”). Each film provides something different for a design crew, and "Sahara” is no exception. In this case, the look of Morocco is very different from that of Mali, where much of the film takes place, and Cameron was creative in finding ways to make the location work.

"We took over a little town just outside Erfoud, called Rissani, which we turned into a northern Malian town,” he says. "We changed shop fronts, selling the produce that is sold in northern Mali but not in Morocco. We got the right trucks and dressed them to look like Malian trucks. We made sure the taxis were the right colors. Morocco isn't as colorful as Mali; as you go south, there's more color. We introduced all those elements.”

Cameron was also responsible for designing the large solar power plant that covers a dark secret. "We built some of the mirrors; others were computer-generated,” he notes.

"In the script, there's a Legionnaire's fort that overlooks the plant,” Cameron continues. "We were able to use an old Legionnaire's fort just outside Erfoud. We took it over and adapted it to the requirements of the<

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