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PRINCE OF PERSIA THE SANDS OF TIME

Surviving Summer In Morocco
On Location with Triple-Digit Temps

"Everybody said to us, ‘Morocco's a great place,'” recalls director Mike Newell. "‘Just don't go there in July and August.' So of course, we shot all the way through July and August.”

"I couldn't understand why my hotel was empty when I got to Morocco,” says Alfred Molina. "I kept thinking, isn't everybody in Europe on holiday in August? And the local people were looking at me as if to say, What are you doing here? And then I quickly discovered that you don't go to Morocco, 'cause it's too bloody hot! Nobody works in Morocco in August. So, yeah, mad dogs and Englishmen, I guess.”

"It makes perfect sense to film a movie about the ancient world in Morocco,” says producer Jerry Bruckheimer, "because the ancient and the modern coexist side by side. Even with chic restaurants, elegant clubs and boutique hotels springing up all over Marrakesh, artisans in the medina are still hand-tooling their products just as they have for thousands of years. And outside of the cities, life is even more traditional amidst Morocco's mountains and valleys, plains and deserts. With so many films having been made there, there's a great infrastructure with skilled technicians and workers, and the Moroccan government is always very welcoming. Moroccans are great craftsmen, and we used an enormous number of artisans. They did an amazing job.”

Cast and crew braved temperatures in excess of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, high altitudes, countless lamb burgers and lethal critters in harsh desert landscapes. Following six months of active preparation, "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” began principal photography on July 23, 2008, in suitably epic fashion, with the first two weeks of filming occurring at an altitude of 8,200 feet in Oukaimden, 75 kilometers above the sizzling hot city of Marrakesh. To access this remote location in the High Atlas range, one had to ride through the verdant Ourika Valley and then ascend a winding, rustic mountain road with perilous drops and switchbacks.

But it was a perfect site for the film's Hidden Valley location. It took 20 Moroccan laborers three and a half weeks to build a road into the secluded location. Meanwhile, the first of many base camps that included a massive catering tent and cooking facilities was created, plus all of the production vehicles—from the actors' trailers to tech trucks. An armada of four-wheel-drive Land Rovers was brought in by Morocco transportation coordinator Gerry Gore to ferry the company from the base camp at the foot of the ski lift to the Hidden Valley site—a ride bumpy enough to compete with the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland. Temperatures in midsummer in North Africa rarely drop below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and during shooting, the average loomed at about 110–115 degrees. During many days of the shoot, the Moroccan locations were either the hottest places on Earth, or something very close to it.

Approximately 18 miles north of Izergane is a flat, dusty, windless stretch of desert called Agafay, where nearly 500 background players portrayed a large chunk of the Persian army as it approaches Alamut. The film's technical and security adviser Harry Humphries and his Moroccan associate Lotfi Saalaoui (a police officer assigned to work with the film's security team) trained the hundreds of local extras. Humphries, a former Navy SEAL and longtime Bruckheimer associate is one of the motion-picture industry's most experienced technical, military and security advisers. "We had to turn 400 people into a marching army within a very short period of time,” says Humphries. "Luckily, Sergeant Lotfi is an excellent drill sergeant, so although none of the extras had ever seen a drill field before, he turned them into an excellent marching force in just three days.”

Twenty kilometers southwest<

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