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Filming In Cooler, Calmer Great Britain
Filmmakers Create a Magical World on Pinewood Studios Sound Stages

The sudden transition from ruthlessly hot and routinely chaotic Morocco to the staid, cool, controlled confines of Pinewood Studios was a kind of culture shock for the company. The fully fabricated but no less wondrous sets designed by Wolf Kroeger were constructed on nine soundstages of the historic studio in the bucolic burg of Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire.

"There's nothing better than being in a real environment, being in a place where you feel like you go back centuries,” says Jake Gyllenhaal. "When we were filming in Morocco, we were all in the middle of the desert, dirty and dusty. I can't recall the amount of times between takes you had to just get the sand out of your eyes, mouth and ears so you looked like you weren't literally made of sand. The realism of it all was indelible. But onstage in London, we could mix reality with fantasy, which is all the more interesting to watch.”

At Pinewood, the company settled into a routine utterly different from what they had experienced in Morocco. It was more predictable, more controllable and certainly cooler. "It's as if you're running a long race and Morocco was the uphill part,” says executive producer Patrick McCormick. "We could walk from one location to the next just by going from one soundstage to another, and we didn't have weather to contend with. And instead of catering an average of 700 people a day, we dropped down to just 250 or 300. In Morocco, we had 300 drivers alone!” While the company was filming in Morocco, U.K. supervising art director Gary Freeman's team of art department and construction personnel were readying 35 complex sets on nine soundstages.

The jaw-dropping Eastern Gate of Alamut occupied nearly the entire length, breadth and height of the 007 Stage at Pinewood, with walls nearly 50 feet high and palm trees imported from southern Spain and then carefully maintained by greensman Jon Marson and his team. The set was large enough for the filming of a massive battle scene involving hundreds of extras and 25 horses charging through gates and barriers of fire. "The primary reason for building this set was for night work involving lots of parkour and other stuntwork, which would have been difficult to shoot in Morocco,” says Freeman. U.K. construction manager Brian Neighbour built the Alamut Eastern Gate complex in just 14 weeks, utilizing 3,000 sheets of 8x4 and 70,000 feet of 3x1 timber, as well as 40 tons of casting plaster for the moldings.

The Alamut Great Hall on S Stage was a lustrous amalgamation of Indian styles, all in cream tones with flecks of gold. "I didn't want to use candlelight for this set,” says set decorator Elli Griff. "I was determined to use only oil light, which turned out to be a bit of a feat. But John Seale, our cinematographer, felt that he got interesting light from it. I used jeweled colors, low-level dressing, canopies and things of that nature that could reflect the light.”

The versatile Alamut Palace interior was utilized for several environments, including Tamina's throne room, Tus' chambers and the banquet room in which King Sharaman is assassinated. "I wanted to make the base of Tamina's throne a crystal lotus flower, which almost subconsciously links to the crystalline Sandglass of the Gods,” says Griff. "She has a huge, golden canopy above her throne with a hole in it so that the light can come down as if she has a direct connection with the gods and heaven. Everything about Tamina and her culture is accepting, soft and humorous.”

A sumptuous fantasia of color, with its peacock bed and wall ornamentation resembling ancient illuminated manuscripts, inlaid with precious jewels, Tamina's chambers is a bedroom truly befitting a princess. "Mike Newell and Wolf Kroeger had a discussion in wh

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