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About The Production (Cont'd)

When costume designer Virginia Johnson creates the look of each character, she puts a great deal of focus on painstaking attention to detail, whether it's creating 18th century period gowns, outfitting superheroes in colorful spandex costumes, or shopping off the rack from a local Nordstrom. Her work includes Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, the upcoming The New Mutants, and Patriots Day, her first collaboration with her Mile 22 director, Peter Berg. "What I love about working with Peter Berg is that nothing is insignificant," the costume designer notes. "We pay attention to all the details, even if we're making up a fictional country with fictional characters, we're always grounded in realism."

In both designing and selecting the cast's attire for the film, Johnson took her primary cue from the fictitious host country, which forced her to use her imagination to decide how people would dress in this global metropolis. I started talking with Peter about where the country is, because I knew that would influence how people would dress. What's the season? What's the climate? In the end, he wanted it to be as unspecific as possible," she says. "Pete's feeling was that it was a country that people want out of. It's falling out, it's not a place you can imagine a future in. At the same time, it's not a Third World country; it's a developing nation that has a metropolis with a diverse and complicated community."

Johnson scoured photo blogs and books featuring images of heavily populated cities for inspiration. "My mood boards focused on Buenos Aires, Mexico City, New York City, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and London - places where you see an immigrant population," she notes. "Keep in mind that there is fast fashion all over the world, so you can see someone running around in a Levi's t-shirt everywhere now." One of the photo blogs she came across was from Bogota, Colombia, and it featured the bicycle and motorcycle culture within the city. A few photos from her mood board even ended up influencing what both Silva and the host country assassins wear. "From Silva to Bishop to Li Noor, there's something a little special about them, the way they dress and the way they carry themselves that gives them a distinctive style," Johnson says. "That's what I try and imbue with each character."

Johnson did extensive research into what CIA special agents wear in the field. "For the Ground Branch team, we immediately pushed away from suits and the government contract-for-hire look of cargo pants and polo shirts. Instead, we wanted them to look unique. They're a little laissez faire. They dress like the people they are, in street clothes, but there's a character purposefulness to how they dress." Rather than custom make each piece of wardrobe, Johnson says she used an off the rack approach. "Most of the wardrobe was purchased off the rack, but nothing went on camera untouched," she notes, explaining that each piece was slightly customized in the fit or the color for each actor. "We had tons of multiples for everyone. Throughout the film people undergo a lot of events - explosions, gunfire, knife fights, stepping on debris, so there are plenty of things that can happen to the clothing."

With the neutral palettes of the U.S. Embassy and the makeshift Overwatch headquarters where much of the interior scenes occur, she decided to choose clothing that would pop against that background. "When you go into the Embassy the lines are clean and cool," she explains. "Pete said, 'I don't want us to be afraid of color,' so we used little hints of color for our whole team - Silva, Alice, Sam, Douglas - but he also wanted them to look a little outside the box, not your typical CIA agent."

Johnson also worked closely with production designer Andrew Menzies on the overall color palette for the costumes and how they'll look in certain sets and lighting conditions. "We actually have a really tight color palette, but with this through line of a red tone," Johnson says. "We have a warmth for Ground Branch that we used throughout, and then the host country assassins are in greens and blue cool tones to separate them visually."

For Mark Wahlberg's character, James "Jimmy" Silva, she envisioned what she calls a jeans and flannel guy. "It's a very Boston or Massachusetts kind of look, none of which screams 'I am a CIA agent!' You could walk the streets, grab a coffee, it would feel completely normal and very American. He's a guy who could walk through the action and not be fazed."

For Ronda Rousey's character, Sam Snow, the designer wanted to push against type. "Ronda is super athletic, she's a fighter," Johnson says. "We wanted her to twist that idea of people's expectations of how a Ronda-type character would dress. She's tough, but she doesn't have to dress in sleeveless cutoff shorts and cargo pants to make that visual statement." For Lauren Cohan's character of Alice Kerr, Johnson says they chose a "tactical version of athleisure wear," "It's all mixed up and tailored to someone who is athletic - and could kill you," Johnson laughs.

The Overwatch team has a nondescript aesthetic. "There's a street style to them, yet they are trying to disappear," she explains. "If you saw them on the street, nothing about them would signal that they're a highly intelligent and powerful secret group running a government operation." As Bishop, the leader of Overwatch, John Malkovich is in a position of quiet power, so Johnson envisioned "your quirky college professor at an Ivy League school - tie, sweater, but he wears a pair of Converse AllStar high tops." The rest of the Overwatch team gets a more sleek, unified look. "We wanted them to look purposeful, like they were there to work. So, the entire team shows up at the new operation headquarters dressed in beautiful tailored suits - black, navy, and charcoal grey."

Director Peter Berg had a specific request for the character of Li Noor, the Indocarr Special Forces informant played by Iko Uwais; he wanted Noor to dress in clothing the Americans would find presentable and non-threatening, instead of having him in a uniform, as might be expected. He shows up at the embassy in a polo shirt and chinos, which is a complete one-eighty from everybody's idea of what the character is," Johnson expresses. "He has this very young, American, preppy kid vibe -but the giveaway is that he wears a pair of tactical boots."

In addition to the principal characters, Johnson also had to outfit the analysts aboard the Russian spy plane, which required some espionage-style costume design. To achieve what she describes as "a very military/industrial complex vibe," she was inspired by images she saw of Russian President Vladimir Putin's war room with young men all dressed in matching polo shirts with stripes on their collar. However, despite encountering legal and logistical roadblocks in sourcing and shipping them, she was able to secure 15 authentic Russian defense forces uniforms; she convinced her Russian supplier to bring the uniforms to the United States in their personal luggage.

Johnson and her costume department were also responsible for 800 actors and extras. She says that her one goal for every piece of wardrobe is that it looks like each character owns them and has lived in them. "I don't want anything to look like it was picked up in the mall that morning. I don't want it to feel brand new. I want there to be some wrinkles, like the characters have lived in their clothes."


Mile 22 was filmed on a surprisingly short 42-day shoot between November 2017 and February 2018, filming the majority of its interiors in Atlanta, Georgia during the first five weeks, before moving to Bogota, Colombia for the remainder of the shoot, where the exterior action scenes were staged in the middle of the bustling city on practical locations. After considering locations in Asia, the filmmakers selected Bogota for its ability to double as almost anywhere in the world, as well as its proximity to Atlanta for travel and logistics.

"We always try to make everything as real as possible and do all the stuff practical," actor/producer Mark Wahlberg says. This included the actors doing many of their own stunts. "It usually entails my getting the crap kicked out of me," he quips. "But I know the end result is going to be great, and as long as I get to go home with my arms and legs I'm a happy camper."

Veteran special effects supervisor Matt Kutcher and his team were responsible for all the various practical effects in the film, including all the explosions, car crashes, bullet hits, squibs, and muzzle flashes. In keeping with Berg's mandate for the film to exhibit the pinnacle of "modern combat cinema," it was essential to rely on practical effects as much as possible, keeping visual effects to a minimum. Kutcher, who lent his FX skills to Berg's Patriots Day and Deepwater Horizon, says, "What I find with Peter Berg, more than with other directors, is that it's going to happen for real, it's going to happen in front of the camera, and it's going to happen the first time."

In addition to the explosive effects sequences featuring both the east coast Russian safe house and the Indocarr café safe house, the SFX veteran was responsible for various vehicle explosions during the team's 22-mile journey through the host city. To film the high-speed chase sequences, the production filmed driving scenes in various neighborhoods in Bogota, but mostly located around the busy Centro Internacional business district lined with office buildings, apartment towers, businesses and restaurants. The producers worked closely with Bogota's transportation division to close roads for several days to allow filming of various driving and stunt sequences.

The street war is the first of several vehicle chase sequences that relied on RDV's (Roof Driven Vehicles). To make filming these high-speed pursuits possible, Kutcher and his FX team rigged the picture vehicle with rooftop roll cages that would allow stunt drivers to steer the car from the roof, out of sight of the cameras. By allowing stunt drivers full access to the vehicle's controls, including brakes and steering, it enabled them to drive the vehicles externally while the actors were inside, focusing on their craft without the added pressure of having to drive. To support Berg's vision of modern combat cinema, these RDV's also had platforms on both the driver and passenger sides, where camera operators were harnessed in and could film the action in the same handheld style as the rest of the film.

"The actors are inside doing what they do best, while stunts are outside driving and doing what they do best," Kutcher explains. "You put the stunt driver on top of the pod, and that way you get the actors acting like they're driving, crashing, and returning gunfire, but what you really have is a stunt guy up on top driving this pod and the actor is inside reacting to real life. And when the audience sees it, all that stuff in the car makes it look like the actors are really road racing through the narrow streets of Colombia. So, we could bump and bang multiple times and give the audience their money's worth. This is about the only way to get it done."

"Pete had a great idea that the street war shoot-out should feel like Heat, says production designer Andrew Menzies. "It should be in a very populated, busy metropolitan center. And this location worked in the journey because you're in a place that you wouldn't expect to be ambushed in because you're in the public eye. And then suddenly all hell breaks loose and it's full-on for the rest of the movie."


To lay the groundwork for filming an action film of this scale, which would involve multiple street closures, car chases, gunfire, and explosions, the filmmakers began speaking with officials of the Colombian government and the City of Bogota back in June of 2017. One of the most important special permits the filmmakers had to get was to allow aerial filming in what were normally the city's no-fly zones. With the entire mission monitored by drones operated by the Overwatch team, that meant cameras in the air on nearly every filming day in order to get the required "surveillance" footage.

"The government was very supportive throughout the process and were integral in allowing us to do the things that we needed to do," says Miguel Tapia, the Colombia location manager. "Everybody wanted to see this be successful. I met with the President in September of 2017 and with other government officials all the way up to the top ministers in the city," recalls executive producer Stuart Besser. "This is the first U.S. based film that has ever come to Bogota, that's filmed in the middle of the city, and has nothing to do with the drug trade. That was huge to them. And their enthusiasm about that, as well as their increasing desire to promote Colombia and Bogota as a filming location, a friendly place to work, as well as a safe city, is what they embraced."

While on location in Bogota, the film teamed up with local production company Dynamo, one of Latin America's most prominent production houses, which provided production services and crew to work side-by-side with the U.S. crew in all the film's departments, from locations, security and transportation, to assistant directors, hair, make up and wardrobe. Although many of the Colombian crew had experience on shows such as Narcos, working on Mile 22 also provided many first-time crewmembers with hands-on experience to advance their own technical skills.

"One of the most important parts of the process of filming in Bogota was the inclusion of Dynamo Productions," says location manager Miguel Tapia. "They really helped us adapt and figure out the processes, rules and then along the way we tried to adapt some of those processes with how we normally function in the U.S." Tapia notes that in filming big action scenes on busy Bogota streets often required a crew of up to 1500. "Things are done differently here dealing with the police, security, dealing with a logistics to help us implement all the street closures, pedestrian and traffic control," he explains.

Both then-Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and Bogota mayor Enrique Penalosa rolled out the red carpet for the filmmakers, including cooperation from the national police, the transit authority, and the military. "It was remarkable how President Santos and his government really opened up their city to us," Peter Berg says. "We were basically given keys to the city. We were allowed to go into their equivalent of Times Square and shut it down for 10 days and do some pretty hectic stuff. The fact that we were able to use the real city and interact with the real city in a pretty kinetic way really helped give us the look we were going for."

The President and his family even got personally involved in the film; the President's son, Esteban Santos, who recently graduated from the University of Virginia, appears in the film as a U.S. Embassy military guard. Then, during a visit to set, President Santos found himself in the middle of the action, as Peter Berg handed him a Panavision camera that he operated during a scene featuring Mark Wahlberg.


One of the most thrilling scenes in Mile 22 takes place in the infirmary of the U.S. Embassy and depicts a brutal close quarters, hand-to-hand fight between Li Noor, played by Indonesian martial arts and action star, Iko Uwais, and two assassins sent to neutralize him before he can hand over top secret information to the CIA. The fight sequence serves both as a perfect showcase for his fighting skills, and to announce his status as Hollywood's newest breakout action star.

Uwais choreographed the realistic fight scene with the two actors who play the assassins, his longtime training partner, Rama Ruswadi, and stunt performer/actor Sam Looc, along with second unit director Kevin Scott, stunt coordinator Clay Cullen, fight coordinator Ryan Watson, and stunt utility Lateef Crowder. The fight sequence features multiple martial arts styles, including capoeira, Chinese kickboxing, Kung-Fu, as well as Iko Uwais' trademark, Silat - the Indonesian style of fighting known for its use of knives and other weapons.

"We spent weeks prepping for this fight, making sure everything works as far as geography, props, and set decoration. We choreographed it, shot pre-vis, and ran it. Then on the day, we just went for it 100%," explains fight choreographer Sam Looc. "We want to make sure it's as raw and that it looks real. That's the main concern. What makes this fight unique is the fact that Li Noor is handcuffed to the hospital bed and wearing only briefs when he is attacked."

"He's handcuffed to the bed, so that is almost like a fourth character in the fight; he can't get off it. The whole time he's fighting, he's involved in this situation where he has to break free. He's like a chained dog," says fight coordinator, Ryan Watson. "The vibe in this fight was to try to think of everything that can cause the heebie-jeebies, including needles and bedpans."

The infirmary fight was filmed in the U.S. Embassy set in downtown Atlanta over the course of an entire week, employing both the film's first and second units. According to Uwais, for audiences the fight should feel very real, at full speed and full power. "Maybe sometimes we'd get a real hit, even in the face, but it's fine," Uwais modestly admits. The trust and chemistry between Uwais and his core collaborators made the scene possible. "We trust each other, it's like a dance," Uwais explains. "This is the biggest fight for me in the entire movie. I'm handcuffed, nearly naked in only my underwear, and have no padding or any kind of protection. We are really punching and hitting each other, so it will look very realistic; not fake at all. It was really violent, really nasty, but a lot of fun."

"Iko is a real martial artist," Ryan Watson exclaims. "His Silat style has been passed down in his family lineage. We didn't have to use any camera tricks to make him look better at his skill. If we're talking about hey, I'm going to stab you here, he has 17 different ways to defend it, so it makes choreography and shooting it really easy."

Peter Berg knew going into the film that in addition to his acting and fighting skills, Uwais generally choreographs his own fight scenes. "One of the things that impressed me about my guys - second unit director and senior stunt coordinator Kevin Scott and his team - was that they are big, confident, American fight choreographers who are used to doing things their own way, but they all welcomed Iko and let him take the lead," the director says. "What was interesting was to watch the American guys support Iko, and then watch the Indonesian fighters learn from the American guys. So, it became this very interesting laboratory. And there ended up being some Brazilian and French guys. And I think there was a Polish fighter. It was just this crazy United Nations of guys beating the shit out of each other all day."

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