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THE LONGEST YARD

Designing The Prison And The Field
The filmmakers scoured the country to find a prison that showed the sort of desolation, dryness, and isolation needed for the film's fictional Allenville Federal Penitentiary. Production designer Perry Andelin Blake traveled all around the United States – from Chicago to Nashville to Hawaii to Los Angeles – before finding the right prison in the defunct Santa Fe State Penitentiary, known as Old Main before it was closed twenty years ago. Blake says, "Old Main had the perfect look to it, the perfect bones to it. The old prison was on the edge of a beautiful wide open plain with desert as far as you could see.” 

"It brings a middle-of-nowhere feel – you believe that this warden is really in charge because there's no one watching him, no one around him,” says the producer, Jack Giarraputo.

While the existing structures of the 1950s-era prison – a flat and low-lying series of buildings – formed a great base for this, Blake and Segal felt that Allenville would need a few enormous structures surrounding the prison. Blake and his team built guard towers, a power plant with smokestacks, and a new main entrance to the prison with huge windows. Behind those windows is the Warden's office, from which he can watch his guards practice on the football field (and keep an eye on the prisoners' field at the same time). 

Between two of the cellblocks is the Blake-built Rotunda, an entryway with big, thick arches. These lend it a sense of strength and power – giving the prisoners a feeling that they are up against a system that they can't fight. 

After a month of shooting in New Mexico, the company moved to Los Angeles to shoot the final game between the guards and the inmates. The filmmakers wanted a football stadium that had a small-town Texas feel – and found what they were looking for in the second-biggest city in the country. The stadium at El Camino College in Torrance – a horseshoe-shaped stadium with an opening at one end – worked perfectly, save one element. "We built a scoreboard on a backing that looked like the front of the Alamo,” says Blake. "It was small, so we called it the mini-Alamo, which pretty soon was shortened to the Malamo.”

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