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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

First hand account of filming PP2 in Paris

Time Zones: An Hour on a Film Shoot in Paris
An Accent Coach, A Patient Crew, et Voilà! 'Pink Panther' Rolls Again
By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, August 22, 2007; Page A10

PARIS, Aug. 21

Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the bumbling French detective of "Pink Panther" movie fame, wrote his first parking ticket at 9:15 a.m.

He rewrote it at 9:25. And again at 9:35.

His line never varied: "Nine centimeters too far! You must take ze ticket!"

Translation: The driver's powder-blue Citroen DS is parked too far from the curb.

By 9:40 a.m. and the fourth take, Steve Martin -- playing Clouseau in a bucket-shaped hat, a stiff black jacket and midnight-blue trousers -- was looking for a diversion. He spotted a woman across the street gripping the leash of a yellow Labrador retriever.

He slipped past the director, skirted the camera crew and crossed the street.

"Bonjour," he said in a heavy American accent. "What's your dog's name?"

"Sunny," replied the woman, taken aback.

"It takes hours and hours to shoot something that will be 90 seconds in a movie," said Scott Levine, the film's publicist, who stood beneath sycamore trees watching the morning's multiple takes. "It's not because of incompetence. They do it over and over from different angles, with different close-ups."

Clouseau's ticket-writing caper on Joseph Bouvard Avenue, the boulevard that gives tourist buses the best view of the Eiffel Tower, will be the opening scene in "Pink Panther 2," which is scheduled for release in the United States in February 2009.

By 9:55, the scene's background extras were again in position: artists in smudged smocks painting sepia-toned pictures of the tower, a vendor gripping a bouquet of brilliant balloons, children tossing a ball, a man in a beret casually reading a newspaper.

Branches of sycamore leaves were attached to the tops of tripods, ready to cast shadows where the natural trees didn't reach. A crew manned a giant fan, prepared to blow leaves across the scene on a windless day. An assistant wiped Martin's fingerprints off the windshield of the car with a wad of paper towels.


Clouseau was summoned back to the curb.

A crew member yanked out a tape measure and nudged Martin a bit closer to the hood of the vintage 1950s car. A makeup artist dusted his face with a powder brush and combed the silvery white hair protruding from the hat.

Snap! went the clacker, the black-and-white signboard marking yet another take.

"Background!" shouted the director.

Random shouts of "Monsieur! Monsieur!" rose from a few throats. The artists began painting, the children commenced ball-tossing, the man in the beret shook out his newspaper.

"Nine centimeters too far! You must take ze ticket!" declared Clouseau.

Last year, 730 movies, documentaries and television shows were filmed on location in Paris, according to the Paris Tourism Office.

"Films are a key component of Paris advertising nowadays," said Sophie Potelet, the office's spokeswoman. "Films like 'Da Vinci Code,' 'Moulin Rouge' or 'Amélie' are still attracting tourists. Visitors want to see where successful movies have been shot."

Paris has become so popular with moviemakers that the city launched a Web site last year to help production companies obtain permits.

There's not much the tourism office can do about the weather, however. During the filming of "Pink Panther 2" at the elaborate Petit Palais museum this week, the leading lady, Emily Mortimer, wearing a backless pink-and-white frock, shivered in a cold, driving rain. Between takes, the crew -- clad in rain slickers and boots -- swaddled her in blankets.

But the city can grant permission for film crews to take over entire neighborhoods, clearing the streets of cars and the sidewalks of tourists in tennis shoes and backpacks.

The mammoth white Pink Panther vans lined the boulevard fronting the Eiffel Tower for blocks. One was marked "Dialect Coach."

That's to make sure everyone keeps their accents straight. Martin, an American, has to speak with a French accent. Cuban American actor Andy Garcia plays an Italian detective speaking English. Mortimer is a Brit playing a French woman speaking English. And then there are the French actors speaking English with a French accent.

In this Pink Panther flick, a master thief has stolen some of the world's most famous artifacts: the Magna Carta, the Shroud of Turin, the Imperial Sword of Japan and, of course, the Pink Panther Diamond. Great detectives from around the globe have converged on Paris to plot how to go after the bad guys and retrieve the priceless booty.

At 10:10, the bilingual call goes out again: "Quiet, please! Silence, s'il vous plait! Roll it!"

Take 6.

"Nine centimeters too far!" declared Clouseau. "You must take ze ticket!"

A pale young woman meandered among the 250 crew members and extras along the boulevard, offering triangles of hot pizza on toothpicks.

Only 2 1/2 hours and 14 takes to go.

Researcher Corinne Gavard contributed to this report.


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