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The Largest Museum In The World
When the filmmakers first got the idea for NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN, they knew their first battle was going to be trying to gain access to a museum complex that is securely protected as part of the U.S. capitol, not to mention a massive museum that has never allowed feature film cameras to breach any of its many doors.

Eventually, the production was given unprecedented permission to shoot scenes in the Smithsonian, but with a caveat: they had to do it during business hours, because the Smithsonian closes for no man or movie production. "It was basically like doing live theatre when we shot there,” laughs Levy, "because Ben would have to do scenes for the camera with several hundred people watching just a few yards away.” Adds Stiller: "It was actually a ton of fun, like doing a live show at an amusement park.”

It was all well and good to shoot some scenes in the Smithsonian, but in order to wage destructive battles, wreck general havoc and even fly planes through the museum halls, the production needed a far more flexible and far less fragile space. In essence, what Levy needed was to build functional, floor-to-ceiling replicas of the Air & Space Museum, and the Castle – places that have taken a century to create – in mere months.

To tackle this truly outsized task, Levy once again recruited Claude Paré, the production designer who had brought New York's Museum of Natural History to life so majestically in the first movie. "Claude did so many amazing things for our first movie, it's hard to believe that with this one he takes it to a whole new level,” says Levy.

The scale was so massive, that just finding a place to build the sets was a challenge. "The main issue was that we needed a set for the Air & Space Museum that could house the rockets because I knew I didn't want them to just be CG,” Levy explains. "A soundstage wouldn't give us enough space, so we had to rent a shipyard where they build ferries because that was the only place large enough to accommodate some of the biggest sets ever created.” He continues: "Inside, Claude's team recreated everything from the surface of the moon to the Apollo lunar rovers to Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega and the Wright Flyer. Everything was built to scale and everything matches the real thing, from the color of the carpet to the light fixtures. Claude recreated the National Mall landmark known as the Smithsonian Castle, which our rogues use as their gothic hideout, and built our own version of the Lincoln Memorial. It doesn't get much more massive.”

The cast was blown away by the lengths that Paré went to make the fantastical world of the movie feel so downright real. "The sets were unbelievable,” says Amy Adams, "so huge, so full of details and so cool. To have all this to work with as actors was just magical.” Quips Christopher Guest: "I didn't even realize they were sets for days – I thought we were in a museum!”

Still, in the beginning, even Paré was intimidated by the task. "It was pretty terrifying to grasp the scope of all that had to be reproduced,” he admits. "I knew it would be an amazing challenge.” Paré began his mission by taking the museum tour of a lifetime – spending an entire week behind-the-scenes at the Smithsonian and taking extensive notes on everything he took in, while letting it all fire up his imagination. "I saw the history of the world before my eyes,” he says. "All the civilizations, eras and artifacts and they're kept with so much care. I even was allowed in the archives where they have the equivalent of ten football fields of shelving of artifacts that will never be on display. I saw the space suits and equipment used by the astronauts who went to the moon. It was an astonishing experience.”

From the get-go, he knew the piece de resistance for his design team would be the Air &

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