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The filmmakers certainly did, carefully planning, writing and pre-visualizing the sequence, and then turning it over to a crack team headed by U.K. stunt coordinator Steve Dent and a cadre of fantastic stunt drivers to actually pull it off, with two full shooting units all over the streets of London. "We believe it's the biggest chase and largest number of stunt people called into London for years,” says Dent. The preparation of the car chase was meticulous, from conception to execution. "We rehearsed everything as much as we possibly could,” notes Dent, "working off of the previsualizations that were sent to us from the States. Rehearsals are important, especially when you shoot in a city like London, because you've got a certain amount of time to lock off traffic, and on a lot of streets, you can't lock off at all, so everyone has to know exactly where they're starting and finishing.”

There was very little faking the high speeds at which the vehicles were driven. "Very fast driving through cars and pedestrians,” says Dent. "One slip, and that's it, it's all over. Because of the rain we'd been having, a lot of the surfaces were very slippery.”

A highlight of the chase sequence, simultaneously harrowing and hilarious, is when a Fuller's London Pride beer truck loses its precious cargo of some 160 kegs. "It was very spectacular to watch all of those kegs drop off the truck and explode through shop windows and phone boxes,” says Dent. The authentic-looking kegs were actually fabricated by the U.K. prop department from a foam and fiberglass mixture, lightweight and filled with a beer-like substance. An air-release mechanism developed by U.K. special effects coordinator Neil Corbould, appropriately called a "Harvey Wallbanger,” then fired the beer kegs from the cab.

The car-chase scene took advantage of some remarkable locations, including Cleveland Row, just next door to St. James Palace; Bank junction, one of the busiest in London, and shut down for a day of filming; and the narrow, picturesque Birchin and Finch Lanes in "The City,” the old financial district, both redecorated with signage and faux storefronts by the British art department, only to be plunged into chaos by the fast-moving vehicles roaring down the alleyways; and Southwark Bridge, spanning the Thames, where the chase finally comes to an unexpected conclusion.

The filmmakers not only relied on the expertise of the stunt team, but also on such new technologies as the "Top Rig,” a contraption actually mounted on the roof of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class vehicle which allowed famed British driver Ben Collins the ability to do the actual driving, while Turteltaub and cinematographer John Schwartzman shot Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger and Justin Bartha inside of the vehicle performing dialogue.

Nonetheless, Cage did a surprising amount of actual driving during the sequence. "I like to drive, but driving on the other side is complicated,” says the actor. "It's definitely not something I recommend without spending some time first getting comfortable with.” Adds Justin Bartha, "Nic's driving is pretty fantastic. He's done a few car movies, and he knows his stuff.” Diane Kruger found the car-chase sequence "not scary, but fun, sort of like going on an amusement park ride.”

Bruckheimer, Turteltaub and company also shot parts of the chase on the historic grounds of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, with several of its grand and baroque buildings doubling for similar edifices in London, with the judicious addition of the distinctive Underground signs, red phone boxes and other art department "improvements.”

Further enhancing the international expansion of "National Treasure,” the company took a brief respite from the car chase by boarding the high-speed Eurostar and zooming to Paris for some key sequences w

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