"Sphere" presented a number of huge challenges to the
filmmakers, beginning with the most basic of all...where to shoot
the film? Most of the story either takes place inside the undersea
Habitat or in the murky depths of the ocean itself. The company
could have filmed in the open sea, but past experiences suffered
by other filmmaking companies convinced Levinson and his colleagues
that controlled circumstances in studio tanks were much preferable.
"There wasn't any room left at Warner Bros. in Burbank,"
recalls executive producer Peter Giuliano. "And since a number
of military bases had recently been closed in the San Francisco
Bay Area, we thought we'd take a look at a few of them."
"When we began scouting locations," adds producer Andrew
Wald, "we knew that the only places where they had interior
tanks large enough for what we needed were in either London or
Malta, neither of which was convenient for our purposes. So we
looked at the various Bay Area bases, including the Presidio,
Treasure Island and Alameda in Oakland. The Presidio had been
converted into a national park; Treasure Island was occupied by
the TV show `Nash Bridges'; and Alameda had active helicopter
work going on, which would have interfered with production."
"Then we were shown Mare Island," continues Giuliano,
"which is sort of a filmmaker's paradise. There's great space
to build things in. There's a good labor pool, huge hangars which
could be converted into soundstages, and fantastic cooperation
from the City of Vallejo."
Mare Island Naval Shipyard, 142 years old, had only been closed
down a year before principal photography of "Sphere"
started. But once the decision was made to film "Sphere"
there, activity thundered back into the Island. Although parts
of at least three movies had filmed on Mare Island, "Sphere"
would represent the first feature to shoot there in its entirety.
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