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Production Begins In Cartagena
Though the "hero city” is not named in García Márquez's novel, everything about the lush post-Colonial city of Cartageña called out to the filmmakers, and a call from Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos opened the door to the idea of shooting at some of the actual locations García Márquez describes in the book. "It's a magical city,” says executive producer Dylan Russell. "We thought about shooting in other cities, but ultimately realized that Cartageña was the only place that suits the story because everything described in the novel originated here.”

Though he now lives in Mexico, the author spent his youth in the region, writing his first short stories while working as a newspaper columnist and reporter in Cartageña and the neighboring port town of Barranquilla. Love in the Time of Cholera clearly draws inspiration from the city's languorous plazas, massive, ornate churches and grand, crumbling estates. Producer Scott Steindorff comments, "Mike Newell and I felt it was important to film where the story takes place. And the country of Colombia and city of Cartageña opened their doors to us and gave us the keys to the city. It was fantastic to shoot there.”

"There is a certain creative integrity that could not be overlooked to shooting this movie in the place where García Márquez set the book,” says executive producer Scott LaStaiti. "The cathedral he wrote about for the wedding, funeral and masses really existed.” 

Newell, Steindorff and the cast and crew of Love in the Time of Cholera relocated to the Caribbean port for a few months of intense heat and monsoon weather to recreate the region made world famous in the novel. Production designer Wolf Kroeger oversaw the transformation of the city's numerous plazas and structures, aging them in reverse to what they must have looked like in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

The filmmakers received an immeasurable boost by enlisting veteran casting director Felipe Aljure, who had worked with the film's casting director Susie Figgis on The Mission. Aljure was able to cast 84 out of the film's 96 actors locally in Colombia. Aljure's production experience and familiarity with the locale also gave the filmmakers the confidence to make him second unit director of the film. 

"Felipe is probably one of the most well connected people in film in Colombia,” says LaStaiti. "He did a fantastic job with casting and directed our B units. He went over and above in so many circumstances, getting us help where we needed it via his political connections and filmmaking resources. He was a real life saver.”

Filming took place in 83 locations in and around the city, from houses and castles to rivers and mountains. Some came to them perfectly situated and dressed while others needed to be aged or polished. A commercial tugboat was transformed into a 19th century paddle steamer. Telephone poles were dressed to become palm trees. 

"This was like hacking civilization out of a forest,” says Newell. "You work harder. There are no cushions. You do everything yourself. But the rewards are much greater when you put this much heart and soul into a project, and everyone in this production has given nothing less.”

For the director, shooting in the actual locations described in the book was exhilarating. "There's something about shooting here in Cartageña, in this environment,” says Newell. "It's a place of sensuality. The air is lush and fragrant, and the atmosphere very earthy. It's warm. It's very human. There is a sense of life, love and passion here that you couldn't find anywhere else in the world. Love in the Time of Cholera is a very universal story, but it's also a Columbian story.”

Though no films had been shot in Colombia since The Mission in 1986, the country has a rich history of production led by such directors as Werner Herzog, Francesc


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