First-time feature production designer Jeremy Hindle admits to some dicey feelings while taking director Kathryn Bigelowon an initial walk-through of “Zero Dark Thirty’s” key set. But they weren’t rookie jitters.
The verisimilitude Bigelow demanded for all aspects of the film was particularly important to the re-creation of the compound in which Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs last year. “We walked through, and the detail … it felt like someone had lived there; six years of never leaving,” Hindle says. “We knew what his bed looked like from photographs. We knew he had an AK-47 hanging over it. We knew he was a pack rat. The hallway was just jammed full of every newspaper he could get his hands on.”
Using primarily open-source intelligence from news reports and the like, and enhanced by Oscar-winning writer-producer and military journalist Mark Boal’s research, the production constructed a full-scale, fully operational replica of Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.
“You can scale quite a lot off photographs,” Hindle says. “We had a company called Frame Store in London model it in 3-D for us. Once you have the photographs and video, it’s all a big math equation. It was a couple weeks of math, really.
“We built it for real out of stone and steel. We flew real Black Hawks in; there was a Black Hawk 50 feet over that set with Kathryn and every actor inside it. So the compound was 21/2 times over-engineered,” he says, noting the set had to withstand the crash of one of the helicopters [hanging by a crane]. “There were 9-foot caissons underground, steel, cinder blocks; it was a bunker. It would be hard to blow that place up.”
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