About The Production
For the filmmakers, it was necessary to set the film in a foreign location: it would add to the confusion that was required for the story. In researching possible locations, they fell in love with one location in particular: Salamanca, Spain, and its central square, Plaza Mayor. "It was critical that the film was set in Salamanca," Travis says. "There is no one worldview in this film. You can't figure out who shot the president by following only the American heroes; you have to watch all the stories, and since the picture is about us all, the film had to be set in a foreign location. In addition, I wanted this film to have heat, a sexy intensity, an exotic allure. That could only be Spain."
The filmmakers found the perfect location in Salamanca, a town a short distance from Madrid. According to Travis, the filmmakers soon fell in love with the town's central square, Plaza Mayor. "It's a spectacular plaza, an enclosed square that feels like an amphitheatre, full of life and culture, but also a place that would be scary as hell if it had 30,000 people fleeing for their lives," he says. "It's grand and eloquent, the ideal setting for a world summit, and it's never been seen in a big movie before. It's perfect."
However, as the pre-production process began, it became clear that shooting in Salamanca was not meant to be; with an action-packed script that required explosions, gunfights, and car chases, the Salamanca location simply did not give the filmmakers the flexibility they needed to pull off a production of this magnitude. With Plaza Mayor itself off the table, the filmmakers began to look for locations that could double for Salamanca and found what they were looking for in Mexico City. "When we had to find another place, we wanted to come to a country that had the contrast and intensity that you get in Spain. We found it in Mexico," says Travis.
The challenge for production designer Brigitte Broch-who won the Academy Award® for her set decorating work on Moulin Rouge-was immediate: rebuild an exact replica of Plaza Mayor in Mexico City, and do it in a way that the filmmakers can blow it up.
To build this plaza, the production discovered an ideal place in the southern part of Mexico City. Executive Producer Callum Greene explains, "We found an abandoned four-story mall which became a perfect area for us. We built our construction, carpentry, metal work, and plastic shops in the abandoned mall. Next to it was a pit where we built our Plaza Mayor."
Moritz says, "In a city of 25 million people, it's hard to find any empty land, so I consider it fate that it worked out for us. We were able to build our plaza in a place where we had total security, total privacy, and even weather protection, because we were in the pit. We were able to go back to Salamanca and shoot certain scenes there; the two blended together seamlessly. You really can't tell what was shot in Spain and what was shot on our set."
It took ten weeks, working seven days each week, with over three hundred workers to construct the set. "On a film set, everything must be done faster than you ever thought you could achieve it," Broch says. "When you have a great crew, somehow, it all gets done - and it comes out looking spectacular."
In the end, Moritz says, "our Plaza Mayor was a masterpiece. I couldn't be more impressed with the work that Brigitte and her team did on this movie."
Travis adds, "You could have brought people from Salamanca and they would have thought they were in Spain."
Whitaker says, "The plaza set really blew me away! When I first walked in, I had the little camera because I was playing with it, and that's when I was like 'Wow, this is amazing!' It looks so rich and full-especially with people in it."
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