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Sowing "The Reaping"
In the center of the production's base in St. Francisville, acclaimed production designer Graham "Grace” Walker supervised the installation of a gas station, mortuary and barber shop. "We found this little crossroads with two existing buildings and we built onto it,” he describes. "I'd never been to the South before and I just loved everything I saw, especially this great town.”

Whether designing for a small southern town, a gothic plantation, catacombs beneath an ancient site, or a desert in Africa, Walker and his team of artisans sought to adhere to the realism that colored every aspect of the film. Walker credits location manager Novak with helping to discover so many richly authentic sites for the film. "A place we called ‘Doug's plantation' was one of my favorites,” he says. "It's an old, antebellum home—tremendous place. I loved it.” The set was fitting for a thriller drenched with mystery and surprise. Novak also found an old homestead on the swamp to serve as the McConnell house.

Academy Award-nominated costume designer Jeffrey Kurland ("Bullets Over Broadway”) worked with Walker and Hopkins to create a moody palette for the film's costumes. "I chose tones that were very muted,” he notes. "There's a patina to everything. I wanted to suggest a feeling of antiquity; everything looks worn and well aged and washed out, since one of the messages in the movie is that there's a past to everything.

"For Katherine, I chose the style of tailored, workaday clothes,” he continues. "For Loren, we made a single dress for a girl a little younger than her age to support the plot. Slightly small and tight on her, the dress was aged to show the wear of the five days living in the woods that she endured.”

Elba's character, a former street kid who had sustained eight bullet wounds, has an abiding faith in God—one that is expressed, in part, through his tattoos. "Stephen and I discussed extensively where we were going to place them,” Elba says. "And this guy has lots. In some scenes, only a few may be visible because of the clothing I wear. So those maybe took an hour and a half in the morning. But it would take a full day for the one on my back, which is a huge Jesus looking over a bridge. That one took a bit of patience.”

In a film that deals with the ten plagues of Exodus, the filmmakers sought to juxtapose the supernatural with a very real, believable world. Hopkins worked with his longtime collaborator, cinematographer Peter Levy, to give the visuals the immediacy of a television news report. "We decided to approach it in a photo-journalistic style,” Hopkins says, "which I think suits the way Hilary Swank's character sees the world. She is very straightforward and evidence-driven, so I wanted this movie to have a very realistic feel to it.”

In the first plague, the river turns to blood. "It is red, yes, but it's also full of dead fish and scum and looks polluted, like it could have been caused by an accident at a chemical plant, or something,” Hopkins describes.

The nine plagues that follow are frogs, flies, diseased livestock, lice, boils, locusts, darkness, fire from the sky, and the final plague: death of the firstborn. For the locusts, Hopkins wanted the sequence to convey the same feel as war footage shot by news cameras in the midst of a firefight. "The cameraman would be hiding behind a wall, so you only see certain things that happen,” he describes. "There's dust everywhere, and you can zoom in on certain things and certain people. I used that approach with the locusts, where you feel like you're amongst them. I have locusts splattering on the lens and things like that, so it appears accidental, but actually it takes a long time to make it look that way.”

The practical use of live locusts had a chilling effect on the entire cast and crew, all except young ac


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