Monte Carlo: Viva Le France!
Before production, Bezucha had said shooting in Paris was going to be a wild ride, and he wasn’t kidding. After landing June 19th at Charles de Gaulle Airport on an early morning chartered flight from Budapest, the production shot scenes of Grace, Emma and Meg arriving at, well, Charles de Gaulle. The next four days were just as hectic.
The following Monday, the cast and crew ascended the Eiffel Tower for the first of two “half-days” shooting atop the famed monument. “Here we were, watching the sun rise over Paris, from a great vantage point on the most famous landmark in the world,” says Katie Cassidy. “It’s one of the moments you have to check yourself and appreciate.” “I’ll never forget the Eiffel Tower shoot,” says Selena Gomez. “Yeah, it was freezing cold [Paris was having record-breaking cold temperatures], but I got an unbelievable view of Paris. Amazing.”
A few days later, the production moved to the Louvre Museum. Established in 1793, the Louvre is the most famous museum in the world. It houses 35,000 pieces of art, including Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” and the “Venus of Milo” sculpture. Only 50 cast and crew are allowed into Room 77, where shooting occurred.
The next day, Leighton, Selena and Katie, along with Luke Bracey, filmed scenes on the steps of the renowned Sacre Coeur Basilica, built in 1873, located atop the hilly Montemarte. Here, Meg stumbles upon Riley, the first of a series of chance encounters that ultimately flower into romance. The Sacre Coeur attracts millions of visitors – among them, Owen, who, in desperate search of Emma, uses its marvelous terrace as a lookout point from which to scan the city’s horizon, and reference its landmarks with his folding map.
The company shot exterior scenes at the Louvre Museum and driving scenes on several Paris streets June 24th before heading to Monte Carlo. To enable Selena, Katie and Meg to live their characters’ experience, the producers put them up at Monte Carlo’s Hotel de Paris. “If method acting includes staying at this awesome hotel and puttering around in luxurious bathrobes, count me in,” Katie Cassidy laughs.
The first day of shooting in Monaco took place not at the hotel, but at Larvotto Beach, where the gals don swimsuits, soak up the sun, and exchange frank opinions about the status of their strained relationship. On June 28, the first of two days of interior shooting began with Cordelia’s arrival at the Hotel de Paris. Located next door to the legendary casino, the Hotel de Paris exudes luxury, ostentation and regality. Built in 1864, the exquisite Art Noveau structure features marble pillars, crystal chandeliers, Louis XVI chairs, a lush array of tapestries, and, in the lobby, glass enclosed luxury items such as gold jewelry and diamond necklaces. Expensive sport and luxury cars – Bugatti, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Masserati, Ferrari, Aston Martin – are routinely parked around the oval medium in the parking lot. The avaricious auto display routinely attracts daily throngs of admirers, even when a film production hasn’t upped the ante.
Production was halted several times during shooting to accommodate VIPs arriving for meetings at the Hotel, including ambassadors, dignitaries, and even Monaco’s Prince Albert II himself. An enthusiastic supporter of Monaco’s film industry, the prince dropped by to greet the cast and filmmakers.
On July 2, production filmed at a stunningly beautiful cliffside location near Antibes, France known as ‘Eilenroc’ – an anagram of Cornelie, wife of the wealthy Dutchman who had the palace commissioned and built in 1874 (from a design by heralded architect Charles Garner). Overlooking some of the world’s most valuable real estate along the French Riviera, Eilenrock became in 1927 the property of the American businessman Louis Beaumont and his opera singer wife, Helen, who hosted many fabulous soirees that attracted privileged guests from throughout the region. Helen donated the palace and surrounding gardens in 1982 to a land conservancy. Today it is used for public gatherings and theater productions. Its beachside landing below, not easily accessible, provides a picturesque setting for scenes between Meg and Riley, who climb a 20-foot rock some 30 yards from the shore, and share some emotional accounts of their recent difficult pasts.
Having already depicted a “Texas” high school in Budapest, the art department again “cheated” the Lone Star state in France in the form of a roadside diner. Here, in opening scenes of the movie, Grace and Emma wait on snotty classmates and dream of their Paris getaway. Location scouts managed to find, 35 minutes outside Monaco, a suitable locale that was once a Pizza Hut restaurant. In 2008, the building was converted into a steakhouse restaurant that is part of the popular Courtepaille chain in France.
Working an all-night shift from midnight to just moments before shooting began at 8 am on July 5, Lucyzc-Wyhowski and his team built a fake wall to hide the exposed kitchen, rearranged the dining room layout, and added ceiling fans, a partition, red fabric benches and casual wooden chairs and tables. Presto! A Texas diner.
Principal photography on MONTE CARLO wrapped on July 8 with an all-night shoot at the marina. On a warm, sunny night, replete with breathtaking views of Port Hercule harbor and the surrounding cityscapes of Monaco, the crew shot Emma’s dream date with Prince Domenico, aboard a yacht. A few hundred yards away sat the 400-foot-long Atlantis II, one of the largest yachts in the world.
Selena Gomez completed her work on the film the previous night, but comes out to support Katie Cassidy, who showers her with affection. “Classy gal, that Selena,” says Cassidy.
Director Tom Bezucha concludes: “Like The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy Gale, our characters have to experience their own remarkable journey to appreciate what is missing in their lives and, even more, to appreciate what they already have. And the one who has the biggest vision of herself in a larger world realizes she’s most content and most herself at home.”
For Selena Gomez, who has been in Europe since March, when she began a publicity tour for her album, the five months shooting MONTE CARLO was an extraordinary, challenging, and physically demanding experience. And one she will never forget. “I feel very much like I have gone through a lot of what Grace did,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot, I’ve been able to do and see some amazing things, and I have shared the company of some people I’ve grown to love. And I turned 18. The whole thing is an amazing blessing, and I grateful for it all.”