About the producion
Ocean’s Eleven was shot on location in Atlantic City, New Jersey, St. Petersburg, Florida, and in and around Las Vegas’ Bellagio Hotel. With Ocean’s Twelve, producer Jerry Weintraub and director Steven Soderbergh upped the ante, taking the entire production on the road for ten weeks of filming in Chicago, Amsterdam, Paris, Monte Carlo, Lake Como, Rome and Castellamare del Golfo in Sicily.
“It’s a hell of a lot more fun to film in Rome, Paris, Lake Como and Monte Carlo than sitting on a soundstage in Hollywood,” Weintraub declares. “You can build sets, but you’re not going to build Rome’s Pantheon or canals like they have in Amsterdam. It’s these wonderful and beautiful locations that give the film a different flavor. Every city we went to, people were wonderful to us and extremely accommodating. We were able to film scenes inside the casino in Monte Carlo, which has not been in many films. It is really extraordinary and looks so much different than Las Vegas.”
“I would like to say that I had the time of my life on this film, but I can’t,” Brad Pitt says, tongue planted firmly in cheek. “Crappy locations. Rotten food – especially in Italy. And horrible company. It was really frustrating.”
In April 2004, the production flew from Chicago to the Netherlands for three weeks of filming in Amsterdam, primarily at the “Kattenkabinet,” a house built in the 1700s on one of the city’s more picturesque canals.
“Amsterdam again was one of these cities that I visited while I was doing press and I immediately fell for it,” Soderbergh relates. “I thought it was a beautiful city and really unique. It was a place that I hadn’t seen on film a lot, at least not in American movies, and it had a thematic element that plays to the humor of the film. I was glad we got to shoot there and we got to use the city in a way that wasn’t incidental.”
Other Amsterdam locations included the Pulitzer Hotel, which is made up of 25 historical canal-side houses dating back to the 17th and 18th century, and Dampkring, one of the city’s well-known coffee bars. Scenes were also filmed at the Haarlem Central train station and inside the Richard Meier-designed City Hall in Holland’s capitol, The Hague. From Holland, the company traveled by train to Paris to film scenes at the Sorbonne, the Australian Embassy, the Gare du Nord and various Parisian neighborhoods and streets. “We were shooting at the Australian Embassy on a terrace overlooking the Seine and the Eiffel Tower,” Weintraub recounts. “I said to Steven, ‘You know the Eiffel Tower is out there.’ He said, ‘That’s a cliché, we don’t need to show it.’ But in the finished film, an image of the Eiffel Tower appears as a reflection in Brad’s sunglasses in a shot that I think will probably be studied by film school students for the next 25 years.”
After completing work in Paris, the company spent a week in Lake Como, a month in Rome and two days in Sicily. While in Lake Como, several members of the cast, as well as Weintraub and Steven Soderbergh, lodged at George Clooney’s nearby villa.
“It sort of felt like the Hearst Castle,” Clooney grins. “We would get up, have some breakfast and ask each other ‘Who’s working today?’ Then when it was time to go to work, we’d go down to the dock, get on a boat and motor to the set.”
“It was like summer camp, unbelievably fun and relaxing,” adds Julia Roberts. “We’d be sitting around the pool and I’d say ‘Who’s at work right now?’ We did manage to get an enormous amount of work done, which is the baffling mystery of this group. I don’t know how we have so much fun and get so much accomplished at the same time.”
Lake Como’s stunning 19th century Villa Erba served as the location for Francois Toulour’s estate. Film buffs among the cast and crew were interested to learn that the Villa Erba was the vacation home of the late Italian director Luchino Visconti’s family. (Trivia buffs might also know that Visconti returned to the Villa Erba to complete the editing of his film Ludwig.) In 1986, the Visconti family sold the home and surrounding park to local public authorities, and it currently serves as an exhibition and conference center.
Upon returning to Rome, the production cast and crew filmed in the Art Nouveau dining room of the Grand Hotel Plaza, situated on the exclusive via del Corso (a favorite luncheon spot of Federico Fellini); the Stazione Termini (central railroad station); the chic Prada emporium on the via Condotti; several cafés located in the heart of the ancient city near the Campidoglio; the Fiumicino and Ciampino Airports; the Exedra Hotel on the Piazza Repubblica; the British Academy in the Villa Borghese gardens, which stood in for the exterior of the art museum; a warehouse in the Mercati Generali, Rome’s former wholesale food market; the rooftop pool and deck of the newly renovated Es Hotel, located beside the railroad station in Rome’s Esquilino neighborhood; and finally, one of Rome’s most iconic landmarks, The Pantheon. Originally built in 27 B.C. as a temple in honor of the Olympian gods, it was rebuilt in 118 A.D. following a fire and, several centuries later, consecrated as a Catholic church.
“I wanted the way in which we saw Rome and the way that the city was revealed to be naturalistic and always driven by what the characters were doing and where they were going,” Soderbergh says. “I wanted the audience to get the feeling of what it’s like to be out on the streets in Rome.”
For Casey Affleck, a highpoint of the European adventure (in addition to the birth of his first child in Amsterdam) came courtesy of Jerry Weintraub. “Jerry asked if I’d like to take a tour to see some sights in Rome, which turned out to be a private tour of the Forum given by the Mayor of Rome,” Affleck says. “Jerry always provides these amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. It certainly makes filming the movie an even richer, more satisfying and certainly a more fun experience.”
Also enriching the production experience was a rash of spirited mischief inspired by George Clooney’s legendary penchant for pulling pranks on his friends and coworkers. “George is one of the key reasons that everyone in the original cast wanted to return,” Weintraub says. “He’s so affable and fun, and you know that when George is involved in a movie, it’s not going to be boring!”
“George’s pranks tend to be these masterpieces that roll out over a number of years, so I’m sure he’s got one or two on me right now that I don’t even know about,” Matt Damon muses.
But Clooney was bested in one instance by a clever ruse devised by Brad Pitt. Prior to the start of production in Italy, Pitt crafted a mock call sheet in Italian, which advised the crew that they should, at Clooney’s insistence, refer to him only by his character name. “For a month, everyone on the crew would say ‘Good morning, Mr. Ocean,’ and ‘Yes, Mr. Ocean,’ until George finally figured it out,” Damon remembers.
“It was funny, but it became pathological at some point,” Clooney says goodnaturedly.
“Then I got a hold of the call sheet and asked someone to translate it for me. When it made it into the Italian newspapers that I was acting like a diva because I asked everyone to call me Danny Ocean, Brad showed up at my door. He said, ‘I’m gonna get it, right?’ And I said, ‘Oh, you’re gonna get it, man. There’s gonna be a lot of collateral damage on this one.’”
As part of his retaliation, Clooney snuck heavy duty weights into Pitt’s prop luggage for a scene that required him to grab his bags and board a train in one fluid movement. “The luggage was like iron,” Pitt admits with a grin, “but I found it added a level of realism to the scene that I crave in my performances.”
This wasn’t the only time during production that Pitt discovered he’d been “punk’d” by his costar. “I would reach into a compartment in my luggage and find gravel or pine nuts or an old sandwich,” he recalls. “It’s a testament to the complete and utter immaturity that can happen when people are not serious about their craft.”
The final shooting days in Italy took place in the small fishing village of Castellamare del Golfo in Sicily. Scenes here were filmed aboard a classic 1930s yacht and at a former tuna cannery, transformed by the magic of art direction into a stunning Sicilian villa on the Mediterranean Sea.
The Ocean’s Twelve crew arrived back in Los Angeles in July, where filming was
completed over the course of four weeks on sound stages at Warner Bros. Despite having
filmed at a wealth of stunning locations around the world, it was in his production trailer on
the Studio backlot that Weintraub enjoyed one of his favorite moments of the production.
“I was in my trailer one day when two young boys around ten years old knocked and
asked if they could speak with me. They said they were big fans of mine and they knew the
names of all the movies I had produced and appeared in,” says Weintraub, who has been
known to make cameo appearances in films such as The Firm and Vegas Vacation. “They had
pictures of me and posters that they asked me to autograph. As we were finishing, one of the
boys said ‘Can I ask you a question? You make a lot of money doing this, don’t you?’ When I
allowed that this was true, he said ‘Well if you’re so rich, why do you live in a trailer?’”
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