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THE ROOMMATE

On The Dark Side Of The City Of Angels
The Roommate was shot almost entirely on location in Los Angeles and the surrounding area. "I think about 80 percent of the movie is shot on location, which is what I prefer,” says Christiansen. "Even though it could seem like a traditional genre movie, everything had to be logical. We didn't want conventional action movie stuff.”

His goal in directing the film was to make everything look as realistic as possible and allow the actors to react to what happens in an authentic way. "That kind of realism gives the film an edge that, for me, is a little better,” he says. "But we are showing L.A. in a quite different way. It's not as sunny and bright as you would normally expect from an L.A. movie. It's pretty dark.”

Mallhi first envisioned The Roommate set in New York City, which he thought was a suitable background for his dark thriller. When the filmmakers decided to base the film in Los Angeles, he was a bit worried. "Most people don't think ‘thriller' when they think of southern California,” says the writer. "But our production team managed to stay true to the original look and feel of the story through their design and filming techniques.”

Campus scenes were shot at the University at Southern California, just south of the downtown area and at Loyola Marymount University's campus on the city's West Side. Downtown clubs and art galleries, as well as the busy nightlife on Hollywood Boulevard created a grittier version of the city than is usually seen in films. "We're seeing it from a different perspective,” says Meester. "Sara's seeing Los Angeles for the very first time, and the audience is experiencing that with her.”

One of the most striking locations used in the film is a historic house in Pasadena, which served as Rebecca's parents' home. Built in 1916, the house is an exact replica of Marie Antoinette's Versailles getaway, Le Petit Trianon. Everything in the house is original from the doorknobs to the chandeliers. Its ballroom, a popular setting for fundraisers, is decked out with moldings of 14- and 17-karat gold.

Over the decades, guests have ranged from silent film legend Charlie Chaplin to the Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles. Now owned by Letty Isberra, the house has become a local landmark. The Isberra family is so proud of their home's unusual provenance, they travelled to Versailles to visit its inspiration and had themselves photographed in front of the original. "Then we came home and took a picture in front of our house with the same clothes,” says Isberra. "We had both pictures framed and we display them side by side. You can't tell the difference.”

While Christiansen's concept for the film precluded the use of arbitrary shocks to create suspense, he ratcheted up the scariness with unconventional camera work and evocative setting.

"I wanted to make the camera a part of the storytelling, so it's not just observing what the characters are doing,” he says. "Phil Parmet, the director of photography, has done some truly great films, and when I learned he was available for this movie, I was very excited. His camera becomes part of the action. When we are trying to show the mood of the characters at certain points in the film, we use movement and focus to portray that. Working with Phil, making the movie seemed like painting. I put up the frame and he paints it in a dark and really exciting manner. You will definitely have sweat on your brow because there's so much tension built into the visuals.”

Parmet's previous film work includes the thrillers The Ticking Clock and the 2007 remake of Halloween, as well as a number of acclaimed independent movies. "The desire to keep the film feeling grounded and real informed the decision to hire Phil,” says Davison. "The more real it feels, the more the audience relates to it. And the more they relate to it, the more scared they will be because they are experiencing it as something palpable.”

"And then our production designer, Gary Steele, did an amazing job of creating the sense of authenticity we were looking for in the settings,” says Davison. "It all seems lived-in and not too precious.”

Steele was intrigued by the storyline of The Roommate, and his interest soared when he learned Christiansen would be directing. "Christian's previous movies got me really excited,” says Steele. "I think he's brilliant. I knew he would have an intense, original take on the material. In his earlier work, he has a certain way of shooting and using light that's very interesting visually.”

Because Sara is in college to study fashion design, clothing was an important element in the film, both to establish character and further the plot. Christian requested costume designer Maya Lieberman keep the palette muted, with occasional pops of color for emphasis. "It was also very important to Christian that the wardrobe be believable for college girls,” says Lieberman. "But since it is Los Angeles, you can go a little further than you would if they were almost anywhere else.”

"I wanted the wardrobe to describe the characters' arcs during the film,” the designer adds. "As one girl gets darker, the other gets lighter, until they meet in the middle, rather than Rebecca simply morphing into Sara.”

Designing for Meester and Kelly was easy, she says. "Dressing two beautiful girls with great bodies was so much fun. They were very into the process of expressing character through fashion. Both of them like clothes, which makes it a lot easier. There are some actresses who are not interested, but both of them were.”

In addition to typical college-girl jeans and hoodies, Lieberman incorporated a number of vintage and vintage-inspired pieces in Sara's wardrobe. "She doesn't come from a lot of money, but she knows style and she loves fashion,” she says. "The challenge was to create all of that without it looking like she's living beyond her means. Using vintage gives the impression that she finds these little awkward pieces and puts them together in a way that looks very stylish. She starts out pretty soft in a very innocent-looking little white blouse and she gets a little bit hardened by events, she's a little tougher and a little darker, but subtly so.”

Rebecca has the money to spend on expensive designer garments, but is less interested in fashion than the budding designer. "We wanted to show that she has nice things, but that she really doesn't care about them,” Lieberman explains. "And then as Rebecca starts morphing into Sara, we added brighter colors as well as accessories, because Sara wears hats and jewelry and scarves and all that stuff.”

While the director intentionally avoided showy special effects and action-movie clichés, in the climactic confrontation between the two girls, he pulls out all the stops for a frightening fight to the finish. "When Sara and Rebecca finally face off, it's spectacular,” says Davison.

Rigged with wires to facilitate some thrilling stunts and armed with just her own two fists to defend herself, Kelly threw herself into the scene. "It's not girly at all,” she observes. "If you've ever seen girls fight, they throw punches as well as pull hair! It was very, very emotional.”

Meester says the final battle is in keeping with what she learned in her research. "One of the doctors I spoke with said that people who have these kinds of personality disorders are not violent all the time,” she explains. "In fact, they're not usually violent, but when they are, they take it to the extreme—and we did!”

Christiansen is grateful for having so many resources available to him in his American film debut. "I've never

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