About The Production (Cont'd)
COSTUME DESIGN: DRESSING TO KILL
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
18th century period gowns, outfitting superheroes in colorful spandex costumes,
shopping off the rack from a local Nordstrom. Her work includes Professor
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
Peter Berg is that nothing is insignificant," the costume designer notes. "We
attention to all the details, even if we're making up a fictional country with
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
to decide how people would dress in this global metropolis. I started talking
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
unspecific as possible," she says. "Pete's feeling was that it was a country
want out of. It's falling out, it's not a place you can imagine a future in. At
time, it's not a Third World country; it's a developing nation that has a
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,
York City, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and London - places where you see an
population," she notes. "Keep in mind that there is fast fashion all over the
you can see someone running around in a Levi's t-shirt everywhere now." One of
photo blogs she came across was from Bogota, Colombia, and it featured the
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
dress and the way they carry themselves that gives them a distinctive style,"
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
them to look unique. They're a little laissez faire. They dress like the people
in street clothes, but there's a character purposefulness to how they dress."
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
the fit or the color for each actor. "We had tons of multiples for everyone.
the film people undergo a lot of events - explosions, gunfire, knife fights,
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
that would pop against that background. "When you go into the Embassy the lines
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
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
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
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
of which screams 'I am a CIA agent!' You could walk the streets, grab a coffee,
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
that idea of people's expectations of how a Ronda-type character would dress.
tough, but she doesn't have to dress in sleeveless cutoff shorts and cargo pants
make that visual statement." For Lauren Cohan's character of Alice Kerr, Johnson
they chose a "tactical version of athleisure wear," "It's all mixed up and
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
nothing about them would signal that they're a highly intelligent and powerful
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
professor at an Ivy League school - tie, sweater, but he wears a pair of
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
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
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
shirt and chinos, which is a complete one-eighty from everybody's idea of what
character is," Johnson expresses. "He has this very young, American, preppy kid
-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
To achieve what she describes as "a very military/industrial complex vibe," she
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.
despite encountering legal and logistical roadblocks in sourcing and shipping
she was able to secure 15 authentic Russian defense forces uniforms; she
her Russian supplier to bring the uniforms to the United States in their
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
each character owns them and has lived in them. "I don't want anything to look
was picked up in the mall that morning. I don't want it to feel brand new. I
to be some wrinkles, like the characters have lived in their clothes."
KEEP IT PRACTICAL, MAKE IT REAL: SPECIAL EFFECTS
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,
during the first five weeks, before moving to Bogota, Colombia for the remainder
the shoot, where the exterior action scenes were staged in the middle of the
city on practical locations. After considering locations in Asia, the filmmakers
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
of their own stunts. "It usually entails my getting the crap kicked out of me,"
"But I know the end result is going to be great, and as long as I get to go home
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,
bullet hits, squibs, and muzzle flashes. In keeping with Berg's mandate for the
exhibit the pinnacle of "modern combat cinema," it was essential to rely on
effects as much as possible, keeping visual effects to a minimum. Kutcher, who
his FX skills to Berg's Patriots Day and Deepwater Horizon, says, "What I find
Peter Berg, more than with other directors, is that it's going to happen for
going to happen in front of the camera, and it's going to happen the first
In addition to the explosive effects sequences featuring both the east coast
Russian safe house and the Indocarr cafĂ© safe house, the SFX veteran was
for various vehicle explosions during the team's 22-mile journey through the
city. To film the high-speed chase sequences, the production filmed driving
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
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
Kutcher and his FX team rigged the picture vehicle with rooftop roll cages that
allow stunt drivers to steer the car from the roof, out of sight of the cameras.
allowing stunt drivers full access to the vehicle's controls, including brakes
steering, it enabled them to drive the vehicles externally while the actors were
focusing on their craft without the added pressure of having to drive. To
Berg's vision of modern combat cinema, these RDV's also had platforms on both
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
the pod, and that way you get the actors acting like they're driving, crashing,
returning gunfire, but what you really have is a stunt guy up on top driving
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
streets of Colombia. So, we could bump and bang multiple times and give the
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
And then suddenly all hell breaks loose and it's full-on for the rest of the
GOVERNMENT COOPERATION: FILMING IN BOGOTA
To lay the groundwork for filming an action film of this scale, which would
involve multiple street closures, car chases, gunfire, and explosions, the
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
to get was to allow aerial filming in what were normally the city's no-fly
the entire mission monitored by drones operated by the Overwatch team, that
cameras in the air on nearly every filming day in order to get the required
"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
Colombia location manager. "Everybody wanted to see this be successful. I met
the President in September of 2017 and with other government officials all the
up to the top ministers in the city," recalls executive producer Stuart Besser.
the first U.S. based film that has ever come to Bogota, that's filmed in the
the city, and has nothing to do with the drug trade. That was huge to them. And
enthusiasm about that, as well as their increasing desire to promote Colombia
Bogota as a filming location, a friendly place to work, as well as a safe city,
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
the film's departments, from locations, security and transportation, to
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
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
of Dynamo Productions," says location manager Miguel Tapia. "They really helped
adapt and figure out the processes, rules and then along the way we tried to
some of those processes with how we normally function in the U.S." Tapia notes
in filming big action scenes on busy Bogota streets often required a crew of up
1500. "Things are done differently here dealing with the police, security,
a logistics to help us implement all the street closures, pedestrian and traffic
Both then-Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and Bogota mayor
Enrique Penalosa rolled out the red carpet for the filmmakers, including
from the national police, the transit authority, and the military. "It was
how President Santos and his government really opened up their city to us,"
Berg says. "We were basically given keys to the city. We were allowed to go into
equivalent of Times Square and shut it down for 10 days and do some pretty
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
set, President Santos found himself in the middle of the action, as Peter Berg
him a Panavision camera that he operated during a scene featuring Mark Wahlberg.
MAKING THE STUNT: THE INFIRMARY FIGHT
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
played by Indonesian martial arts and action star, Iko Uwais, and two assassins
to neutralize him before he can hand over top secret information to the CIA. The
sequence serves both as a perfect showcase for his fighting skills, and to
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
Chinese kickboxing, Kung-Fu, as well as Iko Uwais' trademark, Silat - the
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
it. Then on the day, we just went for it 100%," explains fight choreographer Sam
"We want to make sure it's as raw and that it looks real. That's the main
makes this fight unique is the fact that Li Noor is handcuffed to the hospital
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
where he has to break free. He's like a chained dog," says fight coordinator,
Watson. "The vibe in this fight was to try to think of everything that can cause
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
According to Uwais, for audiences the fight should feel very real, at full speed
power. "Maybe sometimes we'd get a real hit, even in the face, but it's fine,"
modestly admits. The trust and chemistry between Uwais and his core
made the scene possible. "We trust each other, it's like a dance," Uwais
is the biggest fight for me in the entire movie. I'm handcuffed, nearly naked in
my underwear, and have no padding or any kind of protection. We are really
and hitting each other, so it will look very realistic; not fake at all. It was
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
him look better at his skill. If we're talking about hey, I'm going to stab you
has 17 different ways to defend it, so it makes choreography and shooting it
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
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
the American guys support Iko, and then watch the Indonesian fighters learn from
American guys. So, it became this very interesting laboratory. And there ended
being some Brazilian and French guys. And I think there was a Polish fighter. It
just this crazy United Nations of guys beating the shit out of each other all
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