About The Production (Continued)
Patricia Arquette was intrigued by the intellectual demands posed by her character
Patricia Arquette was intrigued by the intellectual
demands posed by her character. In the course of the film, her
character must write and speak Aramaic, an ancient language spoken
at the time of Christ that has largely been forgotten. Some scholars
believe that this was the actual tongue spoken by Jesus, according
to a specialist hired to instruct the actress in speaking Aramaic.
William Schniedewind, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies
and Northwest Semitic Languages at UCLA, was hired to recreate
what Aramaic would sound like if spoken in the tongue of someone
using the language two thousand years ago.
"The problem in using the Aramaic of Jesus's time is that
it doesn't have any vowels," explains Schniedewind. "So,
we have to reconstruct the vowels in order to speak it. We don't
have any living speakers of 1st Century Galilean Aramaic.
Most scholars debate if Jesus's language was Aramaic or Hebrew.
And speaking it as it was then as opposed to modern Aramaic today
is like comparing Chaucerian English to modern English. There
is an enormous difference."
Patricia Arquette rehearsed her Aramaic lines diligently, becoming
well-versed in the difficult language. "I was very proud
of her," said Schniedewind. "She memorized enough of
the Aramaic that she was able to emphasize the syllables and words
appropriately. Maybe I'll have her come in and teach a class with
me next year at UCLA."
Special effects coordinator Al DiSarro, who created mechanical
special effects (as opposed to digital computer-generated visual
effects) for such blockbusters as Die Hard II, The Hunt
For Red October and Speed II, went to great lengths
in his own department to ensure the effects in Stigmata
were as fantastic as they were safe for cast and crew. "We
worked closely in order to create what Frank and Rupert envisioned
for the effects," says DiSarro. "The forces attacking
the characters are both real and mysterious. We wanted to convey
the actual presence of something, making the effects something
the audience would experience for themselves."
DiSarro called on his expertise in many areas, from pyrotechnics
and rain creation to gimbals and levitation. Extensive attention
to detail was given to each sequence to ensure that no one would
be harmed while in close proximity to the rigs. "Frank Mancuso,
Jr. gave us the luxury of testing," explains DiSarro. "We
could actually videotape our gags and see them on playback long
before we brought them in for filming. He approved the time to
bring in our technicians and equipment on to an empty stage and
shoot days of tests to get it right. We hope to bring new experiences
to the audience, which is harder and harder to do with today's
The work ethic of Stigmata star Patricia Arquette was the
most unexpected bonus for the special effects crew. Her willingness
to subject herself to the toughest stunts in the film and her
cheerful endurance became a legend of sorts for DiSarro and his
crew. Throughout production Arquette was subjected to just about
every physical and mechanical special effect imaginable, from
levitation to dangerous stunts to extensive makeup effects.
"What a trouper this woman was," marvels DiSarro. "She
gave a lot of her time and effort. For example, she was laced
up for hours in the levitation arm and never complained. By the
third hour, I was in awe of her stamina. It was also a luxury
to have time to<
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