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FIFTY SHADES FREED

About The Production (Cont'd)
Tales in a New World: Filming This Chapter

For his part, Eric Johnson quite liked the prospect of filming Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed simultaneously. The performer explains, "It was almost like doing a miniseries, where the arc of the character is clearly mapped out-it allows for me to make those adjustments all the way through and create a clear roadmap. Anytime you have that clarity, it's much better than getting a script week to week. Shooting these back-to-back, it allowed me to make choices in the second movie that affected the third movie, ones that could create layers."

For Brunetti, while the two pieces stand as individual stories, he feels that they are apt companion pieces. The producer explains: "In each film, our main characters both experience the possibility of losing one another. In Darker, Christian is involved in the helicopter crash; in Freed, Ana goes to rescue Mia. The two definitely blend so well together as companion pieces."

For the performers new to the Fifty Shades world, there seemed to be little 'first day of school' adjustment. Brant Daugherty observes, "As an actor you're always jumping into these previously existing worlds, like guest-starring on a show that the cast has been doing for seven seasons. You're going to have some of that no matter where you go, but I have to give Dakota credit because she welcomed everybody with open arms-she's one of the kindest people I've ever met. I met her very briefly the first day. She came up the next day and asked, 'Brant, how are you today?' I thought, 'Wow, you have so much going on right now, and we didn't work together-we barely met.' She took the time to remember everybody's name and welcome them. It's a little nerve-wracking, coming into this big, secret world, but she and James Foley just made it incredible."

Principal photography commenced on February 16, 2016 and was divided between the titles, with 42 days for Darker, 44 days for Freed and 17 where scenes from both films would be shot on the same day. Freed was shot entirely on location and soundstages in Vancouver, with a five-day shoot in Whistler, B.C. (standing in for Aspen), three days in the South of France and two days in Paris.

First day of filming scenes for Freed was actually Day 6 of shooting-following earlier Darker scenes of Ana and Jack Hyde (in happier days) in the SIP offices on Days 1-3. Production 'lightened up' the third floor office space, brought in Mrs. Grey's bodyguard and shot scenes of Ana as Editor of New Fiction (and the boss).

In order to prepare for Ana's scenes outmaneuvering a pursuing SUV, Johnson spent time at YPK Integrated Training Track, clocking in track time to practice piloting the 2017 Audi R8 V10 (in Daytona Grey Pearl, of course)-one of Christian's latest automotive acquisitions. The actress also worked on her handling of firearms, for later filming of the scenes where she comes head-to-head with Hyde. For her part in the derring-do, Johnson quips: "There are guns and stunts and car chases...quite the opposite from Ana's fairly sedentary lifestyle in the first film."

Day 11 saw more SIP filming, this time with the addition of Mr. Grey (officially Dornan's first day of shooting) and Hoechlin as author Fox.

While main unit was busy with scenes from Darker, a splinter unit was dispatched to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in downtown Vancouver. Refurbished in 2009 and with 2,765 seats, the theatre is one of Canada's largest proscenium venues. This time, cameras were sent to capture a performance of Puccini's Madama Butterfly and, perhaps, the composer's most famous aria, "Un bel di vedremo"-while the script had specified the opera, director Foley chose the portion of the work audiences would see the couple experiencing at the famed Paris Opera House during their honeymoon. Reverses of Ana and Christian would later be shot at the iconic venue, and the Vancouver soprano's voice-over would be from a recording of world-famous Bulgarian diva Anna Tomowa-Sintow.

Day 19 saw filming at a Burnaby building standing in for the office of Ana's gynecologist, Dr. Green (the highly discreet and high-end physician who had worked with Grey's previous submissives). Production next set up at Anvil Centre Theatre in New Westminster, B.C. to film a courtroom scene not originally in the source material, where Hyde stands before a judge seeking bail. E L James explains the nuance: "Niall wanted this particular scene in, so that we could see what happens to Hyde, and so that we can also see a possible connection with Linc, Elena's ex-husband. Ana also comes and stays at the back of the room, and when Jack is freed on bail, she becomes immediately sick...but it might be for another reason."

While up to this point, filming on Freed scenes did take place to maximize locations, shooting Freed did not begin in earnest until completion of a good chunk of Fifty Shades Darker, which occupied the shooting schedule up to around Days 32-34. Those three days were devoted to mostly closed-set shooting on the stages of North Shore Studios, where Christian's bedroom, closet and bathroom were built, along with his gym. A few days later, the stage would be made available for construction of sets for Fifty Shades Freed or other productions scheduled to utilize the space. Day 35 saw a split day, where characters common to both films lensed scenes from Darker and Freed.

Day 36 was shot in the popular West Oak restaurant in historic Yaletown, Vancouver, masquerading as the Bunker Club, where Ana goes to meet Kate (against Christian's wishes, given the increasingly dangerous situations confronting the newlywed couple) to discuss Kate's concerns that boyfriend Elliot has reunited with old flame, Gia Matteo. Production filled the trendy site with background, and included the five West Oak chefs among them.

Days 37-39 were scheduled with the final closed-set shooting taking place on the sets for Christian's apartment at North Shore.

The next two days (40 and 41) were filmed at the Cecil Green Park House, the mansion Christian springs on Ana as their future family home. Far from the dilapidated building in the book and film, the Cecil Green Park House is well maintained, so filmmakers had to work their magic to make it look like it had been abandoned for years. Design and greens departments had their hands full, turning back the clock to give the historic home the ragtag appearance detailed in the book and screenplay. Their efforts included: covering the modern drive with gravel and lining it with overgrown and unkempt shrubbery; Coates installing minor build-outs/walls to cover more updated architectural features; hanging/layering old wallpapers; temporarily "distressing" interior surfaces with the application of dust, dirt, grime and cobwebs; strewing abandoned pieces of broken-down furniture about the place; and dressing oddly random windows with tattered and discoloured drapes.

Also a surprise to Ana, Christian has hired local architect Gia (who first makes herself known at their wedding), on site to share her plans for the renovation with the couple. Kebbel comments: "What's fun in the scene, it's constantly walking that fine line between showing off her design and showing off for Christian. She assumes Ana is on the mousey side, and right off the bat, she's all eyes on Christian, which makes Ana uncomfortable. As the scene goes on, the tension builds. It's cat-and-mouse, and Gia believes she has the upper hand. Then, when Christian leaves the room, Ana steps up to the plate and protects her relationship with Christian, which then causes Gia to protect herself-and then, of course, cover it all with a smile."

More days of shooting mostly on Darker followed, dotted with Freed scenes taking place in a cemetery, a row of fashionable shops in Aspen (actually one complete build out and facades/partial facades created for boutiques located in West Vancouver's upscale Ambleside Village) and a pivotal scene with Ana in Christian's study. A splinter unit and aerial unit were also dispatched to Whistler to capture arrival footage and views from above.

Production returned to the same office space as Day 19 for Day 56-Jack Hyde, in disguise as a businessman and then maintenance man, enters the server room at Grey Enterprises and plants an incendiary device (the first of many acts of revenge against Christian Grey, his loved ones and his world). Days 57 and 58 were all about flight, with shooting at Boundary Bay Airport (standing in for SeaTac/Seattle-Tacoma International Airport) and aboard the Grey Jet (a Gulfstream G450, the flagship of the fleet for the past 12 years). Scene-work included Christian springing Kate, Elliot, Mia and Jose on Ana and their surprise getaway to Aspen, among others.

Days 60-62 took production and the cast outside of Vancouver to the Whistler, B.C. home of McLachlan (standing in for the Grey lodge in Aspen), which looks out at both the Whistler and Blackcomb peaks. All present were awed by the natural beauty. E L James recalls: "What was wonderful was while we were in Whistler, we actually shot at Sarah's beautiful house, and we were honored because she came to see us. At a break, she sat down at the piano and, at production's urging, she played "Possession"-it's a song I included in the second book as one that Christian includes on the iPad he gifts Ana. It was just wonderful, such a treat for the entire cast and crew."

While set decorator Loucks had "emptied the house," several pieces of artwork and McLachlan's 2004 Yamaha C75 grand piano were left to be included in the design-as one scene called for Christian to tickle the ivories and sing as well. Dornan had mixed feelings about sitting down at the piano, moments after the recording artist herself had serenaded the room. The performer remembers: "Ten minutes later, I'm sitting up there, pretending to play the piano, and singing dreadfully. I was trying to push Sarah out of the door before I started singing." He laughs: "I think she heard me rehearse a couple of times and might have made a choice herself to leave-which I don't blame her. But I think she wasn't there when I did a take, which I was quite pleased about because I was not good." (Those present commented that Dornan was "not too shabby" a singer...)

As the house sits squarely in bear country, those participating in the Aspen scenes were given warning of a mother bear and her cub in the area, and to move about outdoors with caution.

Next up for the production was the highly anticipated wedding of Christian and Ana (Day 66), with the glass-and-wood structure of the Riverway Clubhouse at the Riverway Golf Course in Burnaby as the site. It was dressed to the nines by Loucks-with multitudinous hand-painted silk florals and custom lanterns utterly transforming the space. With the bride in her Monique Lhuillier couture and Rita Ora's Mia in Marchessa, filmmakers gave it all to present the wedding fans have hoped for.

On-hand were such familiar faces as Christian's and Ana's friends and immediate family (along with some staff), including Ana's step-father, Ray (Callum Keith Rennie), Ros Bailey (Robinne Lee), Gia Matteo and others. Tunes were spun by DJ Kiss (AMERICAN JAKISSA TAYLOR SEMPLE). For the big bouquet toss, Johnson was stylishly outfitted in a pantsuit by Stella McCartney. Per E L James: "It was fabulous to see everyone decked out in their wedding finery-and see Christian so happy, and Ana as well."

For Johnson, the experience was a first. She supplies: "I married Jamie 14 times that day. It's a funny thing in itself to do a wedding scene and to wear a wedding dress and say all the marriage jargon, but even more silly to do it with him. We both could not remember our vows for the life of us and kept losing it with laughter during takes. It was really great to have the whole cast on set that day though; that is always such fun."

After filming additional significant sequences for Fifty Shades Darker (specifically, the masquerade charity ball), it was finally time for Johnson to get in touch with her inner action hero, as Days 74 and 75 were slated with Jack Hyde's plan to once and for all destroy Christian's charmed life. For many, these were scenes that had been looked forward to the most.

Eric Johnson recalls: "The scenes were intense. So we're doing the final showdown between Ana and Jack Hyde. She's brought ransom money to rescue Mia, but it's not the money Jack is after, and I start laying into her and kicking her in the stomach. This guy is horrible. At our first take, I'm not supposed to actually kick her. I'm just kicking at the air, and my line is, 'You think you can humiliate me?' Then I kicked the air with such gusto, enthusiasm and internal rage of Jack Hyde that my other foot came with me and I ended up flat on my back. There was an intensity there and it ended up with me flat on my ass, totally humiliating myself."

As one of the targets of Hyde's villainy, Mia transitions from Christian's playful younger sister to a woman in deep peril. Ora appreciated the depths to which she was able to take her character. "I loved the entire experience of acting in this series. It definitely is another world from my music. I appreciated the thriller side of things in Freed, and how different filming those scenes was. When Mia's kidnapped by Jack, it is obviously terrifying for her." Still, the performer laughs, "Even though Jack Hyde is pretty scary, Eric is a sweetheart in real life."

As logic (and filming) would dictate, a few days later, production found itself inside the University of British Columbia's Pharmaceutical Sciences building, dressed as the hospital that receives Ana following her near fatal treatment at the hands of Hyde. Multiple scenes involving family-along with key scenes of Christian coming to terms with his future as a husband and possibly father-were captured.

Days 82 to 93 showed production at its most agile, volleying between expository scenes in both features-two days on Darker, two days on Freed, then a succession of single days on each title. Finally, as had been custom on the initial film, the most intense of the intimate scenes in the Red Room were scheduled for the final days of shooting in Vancouver (Days 94 to 97), with production wrapping in Canada on Monday, July 4, 2016.

The Beginning & the End: A Honeymoon for the Ages

The final chapter offered something that was such a refreshing twist for the production. Producer Brunetti says, "In Freed, we open up with a flashback of the wedding, and then we get to go on the honeymoon with them to the south of France and then to Paris, and get to enjoy the beginning of their new life together."

Producer Viscidi observes, "We couldn't have planned this better. It's like we've gotten through all of the emotional work, all of the extensive, complicated film scenes and big extravaganza moments; and then, it was nice to finish all that, get on a plane, all come here and be able to relax at Paloma Beach. Filming the honeymoon, they're running through the streets of Paris, off to a town called Roquebrune. These scenes are not only enjoyable for the characters, they're enjoyable for the crew to escape the rain of Vancouver and a hundred days' shooting."

James Foley found joy in the personal, when he explains: "The most special thing for me is how Jamie and Dakota were still laughing with each other. We shot a scene on the balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower, Day 103, and they were still giggling and enjoying each other. That, of course, is the essence of the movie and the fact that they were able to have that kind of chemistry-it's the sweetest thing."

All thoughts of relaxation aside, production was indeed in France to work, starting with Day 99, where shooting took place on Paloma Beach, named after Paloma Picasso, as her father and their family used to holiday there-a small paradise on the French Riviera, away from a lot of the customary flash associated with the area, on the exclusive peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Scenes there included sunbathing and jet skiing. (Okay, so maybe a little relaxation in with the hard work...)

Day 100 saw the couple aboard the 164-foot chartered yacht Malahne, an Art Deco craft built in 1937 and lovingly restored in 2015 (non-forthcoming reports put the renovation cost somewhere in the neighborhood of £44 million). At one time owned by Hollywood producer Sam Spiegel, the Malahne served as production headquarters for the making of Lawrence of Arabia, and also played host at one time to such glitterati as Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Kirk Douglas and Jack Nicholson. The period interior is by Guy Oliver, who also executed the staterooms at the Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street.

Cast and crew traveled in from Monaco, where they were housed, to Beaulieu-sur-Mer, the seaside village between Nice and Monaco. Water ferries then shuttled cast and 35 crew out to sea; rough waters urged the captain to later reduce the number of production crew onboard for safety. Aerial footage was also captured of the glorious yacht in motion, as well as jet-ski activity.

Montage scenes were on the call sheet for Day 101, with shooting taking place in the medieval village or commune (a French civil township) of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, which dates back to 970 A.D. and lies between Monaco and Menton (where shooting took place later in the day). Scenes of the honeymooning couple were largely made up of kisses between the two framed by the glorious architecture of the seaside village, including a panoramic view of the Riviera as seen from atop the highest point of the village's castle, or la forteresse.

For Dornan, the French schedule represented somewhat of a homecoming. He explains: "When I was growing up, we used to go camping in the south of France. I did my first movie there, and we shot for two months. Modeling, I spent my fair share of time in Paris. So I was looking forward to the end of the shoot-there is a bit a work, but there's also jet-skiing and lying on the beach. It was just outstanding to shoot the montage scenes-having romantic moments in some of the most beautiful places in the world."

Later in the day, closed set filming took place in a second-floor room of the nearby Musee des Beaux-Arts De Carnoles in Menton, replete with arched windows and balcony, and redressed by designers Coates and Loucks as a hotel room in the South of France. The Musee is housed in the former summer residence of the princes of Monaco (Palace Carnoles) and boasts a collection of paintings from the 13th century up to the present, bequeathed by its former owner, Wakefield Mori, to the city of Menton.

The next-to-last day of principal photography, Day 102, took place in perhaps the grandest location utilized by production-the Palais Garnier, or the Paris opera house. The iconic structure, built from 1861 to 1875, boasts several locations that the Freed production team were more than happy to exploit: the romantic splendor of the white marble Grand Staircase (a late Ana and Christian hurriedly make their way to their seats); the magical mirrored hall of the Grand Foyer (the couple pass; also, later, it features in a nightmare of Ana's); and the Auditorium itself (the reverse shot of them enjoying the aria from Madama Butterfly).

Day 103-the last day of shooting, and the final scenes to be done in the entire trilogy-was scheduled to be one of the longest (if not the longest) days of filming on the schedule, beginning and ending with exterior shots during "magic hour"...what better way to capture the magic of some of the most venerable sights of the City of Lights serving as backdrop to the couple at the center of one of the most popular love stories told in popular culture. On a balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower, Christian presents Ana with a charm bracelet marking every "first" in their relationship up to that point; they escape the rain into a local cafe; and they ride bikes through the Arc de Triomphe and past the Louvre.

This was especially poignant for director Foley: "When we shot at dawn at the Louvre, the police stopped all traffic that might've been going through-just so we could have a totally intimate scene where the two of them are riding their bikes around the grounds of the Louvre. Nobody else is around. Christian and Ana are totally alone in Paris."

For the deceptively simple balcony shot-planned for filming just as the sun was starting to set-location found a normal apartment with the billion-dollar view in a residential building. The single elevator (designed for two people, max) made hauling all of the necessary filming equipment up to the space a tedious and time-consuming affair. Conversely, set up for the sunrise bike ride was a straightforward effort, but the wait for sunrise seemed to stretch for hours...giving those present sufficient time to reminisce about the last 102½ days of filming (while standing between the Arc and the Louvre and presented with the marvel of silent and empty Paris streets). For both shots, the results more than made up for any/all extra effort to achieve them.

Designer Coates sums: "The last two days of our Paris schedule were actually in Paris-the opera house, the Louvre, these amazing locations and those magical lights at night. It just seemed the perfect way to end this movie."

Perhaps speaking for everyone, screenwriter Leonard reveals: "'Fifty Shades' is a story for our times. It's a classic love story-the romance of a broken man redeemed by love. But it's also 'Beauty and the Beast,' plus it's got all these mythic things going on. But it's told with such immediacy and such humanity, with such honesty, and I think that is what people have responded to. Now a movie is not the same as a book-there are lots of different voices in a movie-but we've pulled it off and told the story that Erika set out to tell."

Director Foley muses: "This was the first time I've shot anywhere in Europe, but it's funny-when I was in film school, I was focused on French cinema from the New Wave to the present, so I saw many, many films before I ever visited France. I still have this romantic idea of drinking wine in the countryside...but it was thrilling to be here and not be a tourist. To be a worker in the streets doing cinema, because French cinema has always been my biggest influence.

"At the beginning," he concludes, "I wanted very much to not have that 'post-card view' of Paris. I thought, 'No Eiffel Tower!' But then...it's right there, and it's so beautiful, and we caught it at just the right height and in the perfect light...we're all very happy."

****

For those who had been on the story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey since the beginning-from the first day of shooting Fifty Shades of Grey, to the last day of shooting both Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed-completion of the entire trilogy provided immeasurable amounts of satisfaction. Brunetti reflects: "I am extremely proud to be part of this whole project, and the fact that it's turned into a worldwide phenomenon-it's become part of pop culture-it just makes it all the more an amazing, never-to-be-repeated experience."

E L James is her characteristic best when she says: "The reason I'm doing this is for the fan base. These books came out of fandom, and I absolutely understand what it is to be a fan and how sometimes things don't deliver. All I want to do is keep my fans happy. For me, the strength of the story is that beauty steps up to face the beast and she's gentle, kind and compassionate, and she heals him. Love heals all. I mean, it's terribly corny in a way, but it seems to work in this particular instance."

De Luca appreciates how James has never forgotten the audience who embraced Christian and Ana as their own. He ends: "What amazes me about what Erika has done is her ability to translate this passion for and dedication toward her fans. Every decision we made in this trilogy has been about how best to serve the story that the audience needs to see on screen. They have been her touchstone, and, more than almost any other creator I know, Erika keeps giving back to those who first gave to her."

Christian Grey, Dornan himself, closes with what this character and this series means to so many: "There is such enormity of this project-of these books and characters; they are important to people. It's exciting to be involved in something that means so much. Potentially the only time in your career that that'll happen-something with this much scope, this much attention, this many fans. Everyone had a very strong opinion of who Christian Grey was. For many people, I wasn't the exact image they had in their heads-but I liked that, fighting against that a bit, you feel you've got something extra to prove. It's a pretty unique role, in that respect, to be involved in something that is very much for the fans, something that is so meaningful to people."

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