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Locations And Design
Paul Greengrass and production designer Dominic Watkins' team created the look and feel of Baghdad, 2003—both inside and outside the bubble— on location in Spain, Morocco and England. Filming began January 10, 2008, at Los Alcázares Military Air Base, situated on the Mediterranean Sea in southeastern Spain's Murcia province. It was a relatively easygoing start of production, with well-secured locations and a winter climate much like Southern California's.

The ramshackle Los Alcázares training facility, operated by the Spanish air force, provided locations for Hussein's pillaged Mukhabarat intelligence headquarters, as well as exterior scenes at the Republican Palace and a smaller Green Zone palace. Also in Spain, the unit filmed the MET D convoy rolling under a highway overpass and getting stuck in a traffic jam on a four-lane highway as panicking throngs fled Baghdad. The traffic shots were staged on the brand-new Murcia motorway, which had not yet been opened to the public.

Most of Green Zone's exteriors, however, were filmed on streets in and around Rabat, Morocco, where the company encamped for seven weeks. A coastal city on the Atlantic Ocean, Rabat has served as Morocco's capital since 1956.

The Bou Regreg river empties into the Atlantic alongside Rabat. Across this estuary, Rabat's "twin” city, Salé, hosted many days and nights of filming for the production.

The Moroccan portion of the shoot began February 2 in Kenitra, a city 25 miles north of Rabat. Kenitra provided the location for the Diwaniya WMD site. Instead of discovering weapons of mass destruction here, Miller's MET D convoy arrives to find Diwaniya overrun by hundreds of looters.

The looting sequence was controlled pandemonium, performed with joyful abandon by the Moroccan extras hired to portray the plunderers. Costume designer Sammy Sheldon and her team outfitted approximately 200 male extras for this rubble-strewn shot. "The overview of the movie is that it needs to be grounded in reality for every character involved, whether Iraqi or American,” says Sheldon. "Paul likes grimy, sweaty realism. The looters were a mix of young and old guys, very dirty and quite wrapped up so that you wouldn't recognize them if they were seen on the telly. We went for the older sportswear look mixed with traditional dishdasha [male robes] and head scarves to hide their faces.”

Sheldon, the costumers and the webbing team were as grateful as the cast to have former members of the military on the production. "I've done other movies of this nature where most of the main team were actors,” Sheldon offers. "You put all this kit on them, and when they take a break, they put something down and forget about it. The MET D boys never lost anything, and they helped us a lot with how it's worn.”

The MET D convoy's push through a Baghdad traffic jam was filmed over a two-day period in Kenitra. CBS News had aired footage of a similar Baghdad incident in 2003, shot for the network by British cameraman Nick Turner and then-CBS News producer Bronner. Greengrass and his team used the network's 2003 material for reference in planning the film's traffic sequence. Completely by chance, cameraman Turner was part of the CBS News crew that visited the Green Zone set when the traffic jam was filmed.

This sequence, referred to as "bump street” on set, was a big undertaking for action vehicles coordinator ALEX KING and first assistant director CHRIS CARRERAS. Their teams sourced approximately 150 vehicles, which had to be dressed, then dirtied down and made to look as if they belonged in Baghdad. They also had to prepare the cars to be hit by a four-and-a-half-ton Humvee. Kenitra

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