Spielberg's "Peacemaker" films in capital

Mafiosi, fast driving, exploding cars and intrigue. It sounds like just another day in Slovakia. Only this time it's all happening in front of the cameras as part of filming for "The Peacemaker," the first film from Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks company scheduled to be released in September 1997. Described by the film's publicity manager Bob Werden as a "high adventure, dramatic film about nuclear weapons smuggling," the feature-length movie stars George Clooney (an actor on the hit U.S. TV drama "ER") as Colonel Thomas Devoe of U.S. Army Special Forces and Nicole Kidman as Dr. Julia Kelly, a nuclear physicist and head of the White House Nuclear Smuggling Group.


Bratislava is made to look like Vienna in "The Peacemaker," starring Nicole Kidman and George Clooney as Americans bent on stopping illegal nuclear weapons smuggling.
Peter Leginský

Mafiosi, fast driving, exploding cars and intrigue. It sounds like just another day in Slovakia. Only this time it's all happening in front of the cameras as part of filming for "The Peacemaker," the first film from Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks company scheduled to be released in September 1997.

Described by the film's publicity manager Bob Werden as a "high adventure, dramatic film about nuclear weapons smuggling," the feature-length movie stars George Clooney (an actor on the hit U.S. TV drama "ER") as Colonel Thomas Devoe of U.S. Army Special Forces and Nicole Kidman as Dr. Julia Kelly, a nuclear physicist and head of the White House Nuclear Smuggling Group.

The American team has been filming for the past month in Bratislava's Old Town as well as on two sets that have been constructed across the Danube River inside the Incheba convention center. One of the sets at Incheba has been created to look like a two-story "command center" reminiscent of NASA's mission control complete with $500,000 worth of state-of-the-art computer equipment and chairs that cost $2,000 each.

The film's producers chose Bratislava for a number of reasons. First, it can pass for Vienna for the purposes of the film, because the cameras do not shoot upward, so the viewers will not notice that the buildings in the film are lower than the real things in Vienna.

Secondly, Bratislava has fewer people and fewer cars, giving the film crew more control. "We can block off streets, which would be pretty tough in Vienna," says Werden. Other factors were the large available space at Incheba and the abundance of skilled movie makers in the Slovak capital. To stay on schedule, the crew films 12-14 hours a day, six days a week, though sometimes they must adapt to the local conditions. For example, while filming in St. Martin's Cathedral, they cannot start work until 7:30 a.m., when the morning Mass is over.

At noon they must then move their lights and equipment out of the church to make way for the midday Mass, and then they must set up again inside the church for shooting in the afternoon. Surprisingly, the storms that ravaged Bratislava the second week of July not only had no effect on the filming, it actually enhanced it. "The rains didn't bother us because we wet down the streets anyhow," Werden said. "In one of the scenes...the characters suddenly have umbrellas. It rains in real life, and it should rain in the movies."

For all the big name stars and movie-making magic going on around town, Bratislavans close to the action seem rather nonplussed. Dušan, a doorman at the Hotel Forum, where the film crew is staying said, "We have presidents and kings come here regularly. We're used to it." "They're just normal people," added Peter, his colleague. "Heads of state are more interesting to me. Actors can be replaced."

One of the extras on the set waiting for his turn in front of the camera wearing a jacket with "FBI" emblazoned on the back, said, "Sometimes I'd rather have a regular job. When we're actually working it's fun, but mostly it's just waiting."

His fellow FBI agent, a student on summer vacation who got his big break by sending a letter to the casting agency, shrugs off the chance to meet Nicole Kidman. "It's work like any other," he said.

Jana Hujsiová, the director of Björnsontour on Old Town's Ventúrska ulica, where signs were switched to German for the filming of a car chase in "Vienna," didn't get a chance to see the stars and didn't seem to care. "We had work to do in the office," she said nonchalantly. Maybe it's just another day in Slovakia after all.

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