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In keeping with Scott's desire for realism, most of the film's special effects were achieved practically, with Scott working closely with special effects supervisor Paul Corbould. When necessary, they were augmented with minimal CG in post-production. Likewise, stunts and action sequences were carefully orchestrated to be as credible—and of course, safe—as possible. "Ridley wants it real,” says stunt coordinator G.A. Aguilar. "He never wants anything that looks, feels or even smells phony.”

With the exception of dodging a major explosion and having his legs bitten by ferocious dogs, DiCaprio did all of his own stunts. "There were a few very intense, very difficult action sequences,” he allows. "Running through Rabat with rabid dogs chasing me, the knife fight…they were very hard to do, especially in the heat of the desert. But Ridley is so prepared for this kind of stuff and makes you feel so at ease, it's just another day's work.”

"He's very good with the physical stuff,” Aguilar says of DiCaprio, with whom he had also worked on "Gangs of New York” and "The Departed.” "We'd rehearse a sequence and he'd make changes that felt right for his character. He's very specific about what his character would and wouldn't do. So we gave him a template, and then he'd put his own spin on it.”

Keeping it real also meant that DiCaprio had to learn to speak Arabic, including several different Arabic dialects, a challenge even for an actor with a proven gift for adopting accents. "It was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do as an actor,” he admits. "My dialect coach, Sam Sako, was invaluable to me. He broke down the different dialects and we rehearsed them for weeks before shooting.”

"It's very difficult for non-Arabic-speaking people to learn the Arabic language because a lot of sound comes from the throat,” explains Sako, a native of Iraq and a Hollywood veteran. "Americans speak from the mouth, so they are not accustomed to using those vocal muscles. He was a wonderful student.”

At times, Sako had to come up with dialogue for DiCaprio on the spot, per Scott's direction. "I would tell him how to say something and he took notes. Two minutes later, we'd be shooting and he did it perfectly. His pronunciation was amazing.”

One of the most physically and psychologically demanding scenes for the actor to perform was the story's climactic interrogation sequence, which was filmed over two days in the remains of an old Portuguese fort. "I really wrapped myself up in that scene for months in advance,” DiCaprio reveals. "You ramp yourself up for it and put so much thought and energy into what your character would do and say in that scenario, it becomes physically exhausting and draining. It becomes so realistic that your body just sort of shuts down afterward. But without that level of intensity, the film wouldn't have the same sense of gravitas or authenticity.”

"All of the actors threw themselves into the film in a big way,” Ridley Scott states. "Everyone in the cast and the crew was completely committed from the word ‘go.' It was non-stop from the first week of production, but I think that's when you're at your best. I like to move fast, but I also think it's important to have fun, which makes it all worthwhile.”

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