THE FOUR FEATHERS
ABOUT THIS FILM

THE FOUR FEATHERS
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION


This page was created on October 7, 2002
This page was last updated on May 31, 2005


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ABOUT THIS FILM

Principal photography on "The Four Feathers" began in Morocco where the immense desert vistas and striking beauty of the country provided an exotic backdrop for the film. Shooting took place in several locations throughout Morocco, including the tall mountains of Fint, through which Harry struggles to rise above a desert oasis, and the 600-year-old town of Ait Ben Hobdou, which was used to represent the fortress of Abou Clea. In addition, many of the exquisite shots depicting seas of sand dunes were taken near the town of Merzouga, known in Arabic as Erj Eregue Chebi (or "Sand Desert"), an exotic locale where dunes rise as high as 400 feet and stretch row after row to the horizon.

After filming was complete in Morocco, the production moved to various locations throughout England, shooting at such sites as Blenheim Palace (the birthplace of Winston Churchill) and Hyde Claire Castle (the residence of Lord Carnarvon, who was instrumental in finding King Tut?s tomb), as well as inside the elegant grandeur of British countryside manors.

But according to location manager Marco Giacalone, filming in Morocco provided the most challenge. "While the country is a wonder of riches, making the ravishing sites film-friendly wasn?t easy," he says, adding that the working season in Morocco is restricted to winter months, as summer temperatures can soar upwards of 120 degrees. Even in the cooler months temperatures can be blistering, so a team of young Moroccans delivered a steady stream of water bottles to the film crew throughout the shoot. Sandstorms were an ever-present risk, even the ones that the crew generated using fans the size of airplane propellers.

"As a guard from the elements, filmmakers operated from a temporary base camp assembled at the various location sites," says Giacalone. "When audiences see the movie, they have no idea that behind the scenes there?s a whole world of tents set up for the cast and crew."

According to unit production manger Roberto Malerba, "These tent cities are like mini studios in the desert with wardrobe tents, control tents, medical tents, makeup tents and so on." And, when filming scenes like the climactic battle, which included as many as 1300 extras and 200 animals, additional provisions had to be made for them as well.

"Local sensibilities in Islamic Morocco also had to be taken into account," adds Malerba, who remembers that one village did not want the production anywhere nearby for fear that the villagers? daughters would fall in love with crew members and lose interest in village boys.

While the location manager and the unit production manager had their hands full with securing the sites and making provisions for the cast and crew, making the stark atmosphere of the hot African desert come alive on the screen was the task of director of photography Robert Richardson. He won an Academy Award? for his cinematography in the 1995 political drama "JFK" and earned Oscar? nominations for "Snow Falling On Cedars," "Born On The Fourth Of July" and "Platoon."

"My main technique for filming the desert scenes was to shoot into the sun," says Richardson. "By backlighting the shot, I was able to produce a sharp contrast between the characters and the landscape."

Director Shekhar Kapur says that Richardson?s technique used sparingly isn?t unusual, but to stick to it throughout an entire film as the cinematographer did in "The Four Feathers" is quite unusual. "It gives the film an edgy feeling," says Kapur, "and a sense of total reality, which is exactly what I was looking for. Richardson?s other great quality is his ability to infuse energy into every shot through the way he operates his camera."

Achieving realism and dramatic impact in battle sequences was the task of military coordinator Henry Camilleri. Even though many of the extras in the battles were professional soldiers, recreating a Victorian army, with its constant emphasis on repetitive drill, was a challenge, if only in making sure the marching sequences were accurate.

"The way that soldiers marched in Victorian days was totally different from today?s style," says Camilleri. "The real soldiers had to unlearn everything they had previously learned in the military and learn the way things were done in the 1800s."

Costume designer Ruth Myers was responsible for the authenticity of the British soldiers? uniforms as well as for Kate Hudson?s Victorian dresses and ball gowns and the costumes worn by the Muslim rebels. Myers? goal -- to express through costuming the mythic power of the story -- turned into a challenge when she was asked to create the look and feel of repressive, starchy Victorian England as it collides with 19th-century Africa.

"The film takes place when the English are at the height of their supremacy within the Empire," says Myers, a two-time Oscar? nominee for such diverse films as "Emma" and "The Addams Family." Despite the rigidity of the society, she observes, the army officers were aristocrats, who purchased their own uniforms and could select some of the detailing. Thus, as the film progresses, Harry?s army friends each begin to show subtle touches in their clothing that convey the distinction between their characters.

The moment the British soldiers step foot on foreign soil, however, chaos sets in and, according to Myers, the costuming had to reflect the change in atmosphere. In particular, the crowd scenes were an issue since director Shekhar Kapur wanted to emphasize every person as an individual and show their distinct differences. Therefore, in order to distinguish each character from the crowd, Myers added a special touch to his or her clothing. In that way, through all the various visuals presented in the costuming, Myers was able to accentuate the sense of chaos that spreads throughout the film once the young Englishmen leave the comfort of their homeland.

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