"We wanted it to be beautiful and glamorous and feel like a whirlwind trip around the world... It gives the film a feeling of wish-fulfillment for the audience, of going to places you’ve never seen, and feeling like you’re really there. That was a very important component of the film."
- Director James Mangold
The globe-trotting escapades of the action-romance KNIGHT AND DAY were mirrored in the globe-hopping exploits of the filmmakers—both at a breakneck pace!
“KNIGHT AND DAY sweeps you into this grand adventure and love story,” says Tom Cruise, who plays irrepressible secret agent Roy Miller. “And we did everything we could to make it non-stop, unpredictable fun.”
Co-star Cameron Diaz [June Havens] adds, “I’ve been making movies for 15 years and I’ve never jumped from location to location like this. The chance to put these amazing places on screen, and to give the story that kind of scope, is a thrill.”
Director James Mangold reassembled his production team from the critically acclaimed 3:10 TO YUMA to leap into creating this non-stop action-adventure, collaborating again with Production Designer Andrew Menzies and Set Decorator Jay Hart SDSA. Menzies recalls, “When I read the script, I was enthralled by the idea of melding together all these spectacular locations as the story builds to a crescendo.”
To emphasize that concept, they incorporated a perpetually intensifying color palette. “We begin in gray, monochromatic, working-class Boston, which is June’s reality. As the suspense and romance start to build, so do the colors, until we’re in all these vibrant, glamorous European countries. Then, suddenly, you’re going from an Old World alpine train to a modern hotel in Salzburg to a Spanish villa to a primitive island. Those were wonderful challenges.”
Add the time factor, as Hart notes, “I had 7 weeks of prep on a $120 million film based in Boston and shooting in Austria, Spain, Jamaica and mopping up in Los Angeles. All departments were under the same pressure—the entire film was one big sprint.” Some of the sets gave a new meaning to bicoastal—they began in Boston, then were transported to Los Angeles for additional filming, or began in LA and shipped to Jamaica!
“Boston is a great city to shoot in, vibrant, smart and lots of beautiful scenery,” says Hart. “This was my second film in Boston inside of 2 years. I had the same excellent crew and brought my shopper. The only drawback is that the roads were made to follow the old cow paths and now that the Big Dig [a multiple tunnel, freeway system] is complete, there are just too many tunnels—I was perpetually lost, even with a GPS.” Boston served not only as a setting for film, but also as a production base. Key sets included:
For the opening action sequence, Mangold points out, “Our goal was to have Tom Cruise as Roy use every single possible object found on a plane to disarm the people who are after him. We made lists—everything from seatbelts to oxygen masks to curtains, lavatory doors, overhead bins and seat cushions—and ultimately no stone was left unturned.”
Hart describes the machinations involved, “We purchased two 727 aircraft, and had them cut apart and delivered to Boston—one to our warehouse for the interior plane sequences and one to the cornfield for the crash. The logistics of this set were mind-numbing. The seats were not included, so we had to search out seats that worked in our plane and then have them all upholstered in a quick turnaround. We also produced extra cushions for the chairs to take gunfire and bought additional wall panels for the gunfire. To make everything function, we completely reworked the oxygen supply system to respond on command and brought all of the interior lighting back to life.”
“We tried to embrace realism for June’s character, as her life is supposed to be rather ordinary,” Hart notes. “One of the most pleasurable sets we did was Havens Garage, the car garage that June’s dad left to her. We did this totally from scratch and the detailing turned out to be fantastic.” The set, Americana personified, also conveys June’s capability, as she has maintained the family’s business of restoring vintage muscle-cars.
The Warehouse & Simon’s Lair
Bicoastal sets: “We created the corridors Roy and June run through in an existing tug boat warehouse on the Boston waterfront,” Hart relates. “All the shelving and dressing was found in and around Boston. This entire set had to come to Los Angeles for reshoots and insert shots. The interior for Simon’s Lair was shot in real containers that we painted and dressed in Boston. The interior dressing was then shipped to LA where we re-created the interior in a container on the back lot at Universal Studios.”
“We were staggered by the beauty of Salzburg,” Hart remembers. “What a jewel of a city. We scouted it and prepped it in literally 3 days, partly because we were able to pull off a minor miracle.”
“The city is known for its opera festival,” he explains. “When I scouted there while the production designer and art director were still in Boston and unable to go to Salzburg, we toured the opera house as a possible location, as it was their off season. I made appointments with the technical director of the Salzburg opera and convinced them to build our sets. We only had two weeks to build the interior of a luxurious hotel lobby, including custom furniture which Andrew and I designed. The concept was as an art piece, like an installation. We did find some local high-end modern furniture stores that quick-shipped the hanging lighting and some modern chairs, but if not for the truly capable Salzburg opera scene department, it would have been a complete catastrophe.”
“I had to rush back to the US, and the production designer flew over—we literally passed in the air. What happened next is typical—the locations all changed. So the work the opera house had done was out. I was stunned. In fact, almost all the work I had done in Austria was changed. However…again typical…it all changed back,” he smiles.
“The problem was, we lost 3 days of production in an already impossible schedule. The other factor in Austria that defied logic was that when we landed there, not a single location had been definitively chosen by the production or approved by the city of Salzburg. So a couple of locations had to change at the last minute. It was an unbelievable challenge to deliver Austria.”
“The schedule was never firmed up for the European leg of shooting, so when we actually went to Spain, we did not know what was going to shoot when,” Hart reveals. “We were shooting a big chunk of the action/motorcycle/bull-running sequences in two different cities, Seville and Cadiz. I did two scouts there and met with the Spanish decorator, Barbra Perez Solero, who was excellent.”
“She prepped a lot of the set dressing out of Madrid, as that was where the majority of the resources were. We had obtained approval to shoot in a beautiful historic Spanish villa, but the filming was running long and the producers decided to drop the villa to save 2 shooting days. Later, they once again changed their minds and decided to shoot it in Seville as planned. At that point, we could not get the dressing from Madrid in time and had to run all over Seville finding and begging for dressing to put into the villa! All this in a foreign country where we don’t speak the language—very, very crazy.”
The cinematic scope included a remote tropical atoll, with everything built from scratch. Hart notes, “The Tropical Island was actually one of the easier sequences to deliver. It was the last location to be picked and by that time, we were finishing up in Los Angeles. So the hut was completely built and dressed in LA, dismantled, put on a truck, driven cross-country to Miami, and put on a ship for Jamaica. Everything was shot prior to the explosion and then we just blew up the whole set.”
“The helicopter portion was a little more difficult,” he adds. “Tom was getting in and out of the helicopter and, for some reason, my lead person got elected to rig the door to stay open. Unfortunately, it kept closing and hitting Tom Cruise on the head. Not a position you want to be in! However, Tom was the most gracious guy and just kept on going, as he knew everyone was doing their best. The table in the foreground was built by my crew in Los Angeles from wood we found at a source in Long Beach.”
“I had never shot in foreign countries, and had always wanted to,” Hart muses. “It was truly a challenge to work with people who work in different ways from you, to embrace their process and find a way to motivate them to do the work. I also really wanted to protect the fact that we were shooting in exotic locations, and often had to push for imagery and dressing that spoke to these unique places. This was more difficult to do than I had imagined, mainly because of the limited time.”
“I enjoyed collaborating with Andrew and Jim again. Our focus on 3:10 was historical accuracy, here it was realism in an action/adventure/romantic venue. I hope the audience is both transported to our exotic locales and caught up in the love story.”