Its budget pales in comparison with most summer event pics, but Larry Kasanoff’s Threshold Entertainment cut no corners on the location front while shooting the sequel to “Mortal Kombat.”
The pic, set to be released in August by New Line Cinema, logged production days in the U.K., Jordan and Thai-land.
According to Kasanoff, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” is “at least 100% more ambitious than the first film, with only perhaps 20% more money.
“What we kept discovering was that for close to the same money we would spend on building sets here,” said Kasanoff, “we could go to these actual locations and film in many places that have never been filmed. But the only way to pull this off was to go to these spots, stay in OK hotels and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”
Israeli crews in Jordan
The production marks perhaps the first time Israeli crews have crossed over to Jordan to lense a film. The Israeli crew members helped supervise the greener Jordanian crews, most of whom had never worked on a feature film, much less a special effects-laden fantasy pic. The Israelis and Jordanians, in turn, helped the U.S. and U.K. crew members navigate the area, which was sans cell phones and electricity, and governed mainly by the Bedouins who wander the local desert.
“The most fascinating thing about all of this was that we can go to Jordan and have the Jordanians and Israelis work together,” said Kasanoff. “In fact, this was our easiest, most on-schedule shoot of the entire production.”
Kasanoff said that it took a long time to get permission to shoot in Jordan and Thailand because most of the locations they wanted to use were sacred sites, “but once you convince them you will portray them in the right light, it was OK.”
One of the spots they shot with the Israeli/Jordanian crew was Petra, a holy city built into the rocks adorning the Jordanian desert.
“The Israelis had tears in their eyes when we went there because of the political climate. They’ve never been able to visit this place,” he added.
“Annihilation” also shot in Ayutthaya, Thailand, the old capital of Thailand, replete with Asian ruins and temples.
While shooting in a copper mine in north Wales — a location chosen because they needed the surroundings to look dead and barren — Kasanoff said a hurricane came and blew away the base camp the day before lensing began. Nevertheless, they continued the shoot with actors in minimal costumes, working in stormy, 30-degree weather, under the threat of a local dam breaking.
The production began lensing in October, with two units working simultaneously — one shooting special effects and interiors, and the other traipsing the globe for the location shots. By the time “Annihilation” wraps later this month, Kasanoff expects the production to be two months into post-production, a necessity for a special effects-heavy film that hopes to compete in the summer box office battles.
In the end, Kasanoff said the hard thing often was the food. “In Jordan, our hosts laid out all this food, including this assortment of raw brains. …You just have to smile and have another bite or find a polite way of refusing.”
ACCORDING TO TEXAS Gov. George W. Bush, in 1996, the Lone Star state pulled in $138 million in revenue from film, TV, commercial and video productions that lensed in the state.
Although the combined budgets for film and TV production in Texas totaled $277.2 million last year, it signaled a decrease from 1995, when local spending was estimated at $164 million.
Among the 32 features that lensed in the state last year were “Selena,” “Home Fries,” “SubUrbia” and “Space Cadet.”
Upcoming productions include “The Newton Boys” for 20th Century Fox and “Hope Floats” for Fox 2000 and an untitled TV pilot starring Brian Benben (“Dream On”).
Two miniseries, “True Women” and “Rough Riders,” also filmed entirely in Texas last year.