Navigation Bar - Text Links at Bottom of Page


Recreating Jerusalem
Ridley Scott, who had worked with production designer Arthur Max on earlier films, notes that Max was trained as an architect, and thus brings a degree of functionality to the environments they're creating. "I find that a very useful thing,” Max says.

Of his recreation of 12th-century Jerusalem on the back lot of Atlas Film Studios, he says, "Jerusalem is definitely the biggest set I've ever worked on, and one of the larger sets constructed in recent years. Our set is an amalgam of the real Jerusalem combined with research.”

One challenge in envisioning the sets to be built for production six months hence was determining the position of the sun in relation to the set at that time of year. "There's something like twenty degrees of change both horizontally and vertically in the path of the sun, but we seem to have gotten it pretty right,” says Max. "We did some digital predictions and computer pre-vis models for casting shadows and finding out the alignment of our sets.” This was important because Scott wanted light to strike the walls of Jerusalem at a certain angle in his shots.

To design Jerusalem, "we looked at the real city, the real gates, and the citadel area, which has the Tower of David, and we modeled our walls on those elements,” says Max. "There are over 28,000 square meters of wall. We used 6,000 tons of plaster. The plastering skills of our crew are probably some of the best in the world.”

The filmmakers also had to manufacture most of the objects used in the course of a city's daily life. "Those things were just not available, but we were fortunate in Spain and Morocco,” says Arthur Max. "The ceramic, metal and leatherworking industries are still alive and well there.”

Like so much about recreating this world, the small details were crucial. "With period films you inevitably end up making most things because it's very hard to find a 12th-century bathtub, for example. We had half a dozen in this movie. We made a dozen different forges, not to mention the flags, the armor, the thousands and thousands of weapons. Arrows, swords and shields were all scrupulously made by a lot of craftsmen.”

Authenticity colored every facet of the production, from massive sets to the smallest hand prop. Set Decorator Sonja Klaus, with a staff of 80 craftsmen, went directly to the source in some cases. A dozen thatch roofers joined the film's crew of 450. The thatchers, a small band of craftsmen, work in the same way their ancestors did in the 12th century. A single British blacksmith was hired to teach Orlando Bloom how to manage a forge in the way it was done a millennium ago. An 11th-century horseshoe found near the Tower of London was used as a model. Hired from Madrid were three women who have preserved and still prepare recipes from the time of the Crusades.

"A lot has been made from scratch by our leather, drapery, paint, and dyeing departments,” says Klaus. "Our model makers sculpt, spin plaster, fashion molds, do fiberglass and metal work. Our leather workers can make anything from a leather bucket to a saddle. Our carpenters make furniture and carts. The metal workers create braziers, torches, brackets, hinges, and rings. We also have a man who works in bamboo and wicker.” Dressing the cavalry horses was yet another challenge. "We have over 850 pieces of horse tack,” notes Klaus.

"It's interesting to turn the clock backward,” comments Max. "Part of the process of recreating a period is to create an atmosphere with the smallest objects that people don't think about—wasp-catching jars that are hung in rooms, for example. Research turns up a lot of strange items. You have an incredible amount of detail in common objects, in the way that people cook their meals and make their bread, in the way that water is carried. All these give a kind of density to the dream and more reality to the storytelling.' That's why we do it.”

The national

Next Production Note Section


Home | Theaters | Video | TV

Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.

2018 9,  All Rights Reserved.


Find:  HELP!