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About The Production
From the very beginning of the screenplay's creation, there was always a strong commitment to authenticity in The Nativity Story's portrayal of this legendary event, and that attention to detail carried through to the actual production itself. Having been a production designer for many years, director Catherine Hardwicke was adamant that the locations and sets look and feel real.

"We were looking for epic intimacy” says Hardwicke. "The story is grand and sweeping, stretching across breathtakingly beautiful terrain, yet we want to feel deeply what this young couple felt – each of their physical and emotional obstacles – in a very personal, visceral way.”

In search of the perfect locations, Hardwicke and producer Godfrey traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem to find locations that still fit the era of the project. Unfortunately, there has been so much modernization in the country that shooting in Israel was ruled out early on, but they did run across something that proved invaluable: a faithful living recreation called "Nazareth Village.”

On top of a hillside in the modern city of Nazareth sits a contemporary hospital, and behind that hospital there remains the footprint of the original Nazareth village. Archeologists were brought in to determine how long it traced back and indeed, the rocks and building formations date back to the time of Christ's birth. So, with the help of historians and theologians, the founders of the non-profit Nazareth Village set out to re-create a working replica of what Nazareth would have looked like during the time of Jesus. There, Hardwicke and Godfrey visited homes, underground cisterns, a mule-drawn olive press and a 1st century synagogue and watched demonstrations of weaving and carpentry.

Next, Hardwicke and Godfrey flew to Italy to scout the land around Matera, a small town in Southern Italy that was previously used as a location for Passolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew and part of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The town itself bears a striking resemblance to parts of Jerusalem and the landscape has the same feel as the land around Nazareth: rolling green hills, protruding limestone rocks and ancient olive groves.

Matera is more authentic than the actual sites now,” says Mike Rich. "Present-day Nazareth is a modern town. Jerusalem is a very modern town.” In a historic olive grove half an hour outside of Madera, Production Designer Stefano Maria Ortolani and his team began to re-create Nazareth, designing and planning the city's structures from scratch. The production team took existing rock and matched it with plaster casts to create buildings and passageways.

Villages were always centered around the well, so the art department laid out a city built upon that principle and positioned other community buildings such as the olive press, the wine press and the synagogue nearby. Houses were positioned up the hill as the town would naturally expand upward, away from the flat lands that would have been used for the wheat and grape fields.

Three consultants and scholars from the Nazareth Village served as advisors on the town's construction, traveling to Italy to lead the actors and production team in a "Nazareth Boot Camp.” Cast members were given lessons in how to bake bread, milk goats, press olive oil, plant wheat and use ancient tools. As the character of Joseph is building his home throughout the film, actor Oscar Isaac helped construct the actual building his character would live in with Mary.

"The research was important because the idea of the movie is to really recreate the conditions and situations of the time,” says production designer Ortolani. "Catherine is meticulous about what we're doing, and the consultants we brought in from Israel gave us a lot of information that helped the movie and the acting.”

The production also made the most of the surr


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