About The Photography
Principal photography on Ronin began on November 3, 1997 in an abandoned workshop in Aubervilliers, a working-class suburb of Paris
Principal photography on Ronin began on November 3, 1997
in an abandoned workshop in Aubervilliers, a working-class suburb
of Paris. As a result of the filmmakers' meticulous preparation,
the company shot more than 20 set-ups that first day, establishing
a brisk and precise pace for the rest of the shooting schedule.
Another sequence was shot in the Parisian subway station at Porte
de Lilas, before the company moved to Arles on November 17.
The central location used in Arles was the city's historic Place
Du Forum d'Arles, an ancient arena where hundreds of extras were
utilized in one of the key set pieces that characterize Ronin.
Upon the completion of that sequence, the company moved to
its next base of operations in Nice.
There, the first of the film's harrowing car chases was shot on
the narrow streets of Old Nice, under the supervision of veteran
car stunt supervisor (and race car driver) Jean-Claude Lagniez
and stunt coordinator Joe Dunne.
While they were based in Nice, sequences were also shot at the
luxurious Hotel Majestic in Cannes, at the ancient village of
La Turbie (between Nice and Monaco) and in the town of Villefranche.
On December 19, the company returned to Paris for a two-week break
for the holidays.
Shooting resumed on January 5, on the soundstages at Studios
Eclair in Epinay. There, production designer Hanan had overseen
the construction of the detailed interior of the Bar de Montmartre,
the bistro where the team first assembles, as well as the interior
of the rural farmhouse where Sam recuperates and hears the legend
of the Japanese Ronin. "We used a completely run-down building,"
Hanan remembers. "I had to redo the exterior, alter the frame
and do a retrofit of the modern architecture inside."
"Building sets for modern movies is something we've forgotten
to do for a while, but it makes a lot of sense," Hanan continues.
"It gives you perfect control of dimensions, proportions,
lighting and sound. A movie set is a shorthand version of reality
- you take every element that is necessary to tell the story in
as much detail as possible and eliminate the unnecessary stuff."
During this central phase of production, John Frankenheimer was
able to draw on his extensive knowledge of Parisian sites. He
incorporated locations as varied as the Pont Alexandre III bridge,
the Pere Lachaise cemetary, a deteriorating truckers' cafe outside
the city, and various elegant spots along the Duquesne, Segur
and Breteuil avenues in Paris. An additional series of spectacular
car stunts were staged in the city, at locations ranging from
the Pont de Garigliano bridge to La Defense and in the Champerret
The film's climactic sequence was shot at the huge arena at the
Zenith, and involved nearly 2000 extras. The scene, in which the
story's various characters and several parallel subplots converge,
was another logistical challenge for the filmmakers.
After shooting an intricate high-speed car chase near La Defense,
principal photography on Ronin was completed on March 3,
1998. At this point, director Frankenheimer began directing 23
more days of second-unit work, involving the film's elaborate
"This is a movie that had to have one style, and I have a
very definite visual style," explains the director. "I
wanted it to look a certain way, and I knew the only way I could
get exactly what I wanted was to do it myself."
Sound mixer Berna
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