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MR. AND MRS. SMITH

Action
Even before detailing his characters, screenwriter Simon Kinberg structured the story around the action sequences, finding parallels between the action and the process of constructing a successful marriage.

The film's action, comedy and romance involve not only gunplay, but, of all things, dance. Inspired by the ballet-like grace of Hong Kong action films, Kinberg's ideas for the script were more akin to those in a traditional musical than the traditional action movie. "The action had to be big and fun, and play like an exploration of character," explains Kinberg. "In a musical when the characters' interaction encounters conflict or their love or excitement hits a fever pitch that they can't express with normal dialogue, they break into song. John and Jane break into gunplay or a chase sequence, which is an expression of where their characters are in the context of their relationship."

To Doug Liman, whose taut action scenes in The Bourne Identity set a new standard for cinema spy adventure, the MR.AND MRS. SMITH dance sequences were even more challenging than its large-scale action set pieces. "Directing the scenes of John and Jane Smith dancing scared me more than any other – and that's saying a lot because this was a logistically complicated shoot," notes Liman. "The dance scenes are some of the most romantic – and exciting – work I've ever put on film."

John and Jane Smith first meet in Bogota, Colombia, where amidst a fiery revolution, they ignite in a dance marked by adrenaline, attraction and mystery. Renowned choreographer Marguerite Derricks worked with Pitt and Jolie to make them look as graceful and fluid as possible.

"The first time John and Jane dance, they are both leading," says Kinberg. "Sometimes he leads, sometimes she leads; they're competing. It's a bit anonymous. The characters are a little drunk; they don't know who the other person is and the excitement and energy of the space informs the dance."

After they're married, the Smiths soon learn there are no accidents when it comes to love. The couple continues a ridiculous charade, leading to marital tedium. Once their covers are blown, the Smiths discover that no marriage can survive without love and trust – and a clear picture of what one's spouse does for a living.

But first, they play a dangerous cat-and-mouse game, culminating in an explosive fight – a "dance of death" – inside their suburban home. Their battle royale transitions from fighting to lovemaking, from wanting to kill each other, to finally discovering their real passion for each other.

"The scene is a cathartic release of energy that's been stored up over the course of their hunt to kill one another," says Kinberg. "John and Jane actually start to fall in love again because they're paying attention – really paying attention – to each other for the first time. Their lies are being stripped away.

"When their secrets are exposed," Liman says, "they are liberated and at the same time, vulnerable. Ironically, from that moment forward, the movie becomes about the characters feeling safer, even as life becomes more and more dangerous."

Not technically a dance number, another big action sequence in the third act was nonetheless the most choreographed of the entire film. The sequence unfolds, then explodes, at a fictitious home improvement store. The production moved into a vacant IKEA warehouse in Torrance, California for the three weeks it took to shoot the scene.

Doug Li

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