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Locations And Filming
Charlie Wilson's War began principal photography in Morocco, which doubled as the countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Jere Van Dyk, a consulting authority on Afghanistan, and Milt Bearden, the CIA chief in Pakistan from 1986 until the Soviet withdrawal from the country, were on hand to make sure the production authentically recreated the details. In 1981, Van Dyk snuck into the impoverished country, lived with the Mujahideen and wrote about his experiences with the Soviet attacks for The New York Times, eventually penning a book about them.

Operative Bearden, as Crile pointed out in "Charlie Wilson's War,” was personally recruited by Avrakotos to take over the Islamabad station, and he proved "devilishly effective during his three years” in his part in the covert Afghan operation. "Milt Bearden was not the kind of man that Avrakotos was going to be able to push around,” recounted the author, "and Gust wanted it that way. Bearden was a Texan, a great storyteller, a natural salesman and a very tough customer.”

The scenes that unfolded in the Atlas Mountains, where the production re-created the Afghan refugee camps, impressed both Van Dyk and Bearden. On a steep rise above the base camp that housed trailers, support vehicles, wardrobe and catering structures sprawled a motley collection of tattered tents—makeshift cooking areas that fed Moroccan extras in traditional Afghan garb crossed with 1980s attire.

"When we filmed the refugee camp, when I saw all those people—the children coming down the pass—it was 100 percent what it was like in Afghanistan,” Van Dyk says. "It was truly wonderful, the way the families looked. The whole setup was exactly what it was like in the early 1980s.”

The filmmakers' desire for minute accuracy especially impacted Bearden. Even when not on set, he received calls from Nichols and team about anything and everything—a questionable piece of vernacular, the way a rifle was held, the type of kurta (Afghan blouse) or karakul (stiff, woolen hat) that might be worn by a native. This quest for authenticity was quite critical to the refugee camp scene filmed high in the Atlas Mountains. Bearden explains: "Afghanistan, more than anything else, defined Charlie Wilson. When he got hold of it, he never let go until the Soviets marched across the Friendship Bridge and crossed the Oxus River.”

The mountain was so high that when clouds rolled in, the company found itself engulfed in a viscous cumulous mist. A bit of a microclimate, the area had weather that was mercurial at best; within a half an hour, a sunny, windy day was likely to give way to dark skies and rain.

The cast and crew camped at a formerly closed ski lodge, a location they grew to know well when fierce weather roared into the mountains. Shutting down production, gale force winds, giant hail, and relentless snow and sleet washed out the winding mountain pass that led to the closest big city, Marrakech, an hour and a half away. The company was stranded on the mountain, and the catering and wardrobe tents were flattened.

When the sun finally returned and the Moroccan Army had repaired the roads and deemed the area safe, the cast and crew returned to what was once the production. The art and construction departments labored to resurrect the refugee camp set, and while the new incarnation was a bit more bedraggled, that construction's ramshackle quality was, in certain ways, even more reminiscent of the camp than the original set.

In addition to the Atlas Mountains, the film lensed in the Moroccan capital of Rabat in an ornate palace with an airy courtyard and immense arched anterooms; in the local fashion, its crumbling marble walls were intricately tiled. Once at the location, the cast and crewmembers could not venture far. During filming, the king met with parliament, headquartered n

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