Berlin or Universal?

This Porcelain has “the look”

Cate Blanchett in a scene from the movie

The Third Reich or Imperial Rome?

Same set as above from the film

Spartacus Square is what is on studio maps and it is the first mention off the tour guides lips as the Glamour Tram spins a tight U-turn in this area. The area often has camels and horses scattered about and lies just beyond the studio transportation department. Currently, Eight sound stages are sprouting up nearby, where we used to park our trucks and trailers.

The pictures used in set dressing take you to a place in time of Nazi Germany, 1945. Berlin lays in ruins. This was the most elaborate build I ever saw take place in over 3 decades at Universal’s backlot. It was rebuilt to look bombed-out for the film, The Good German. In an interview with Cate Blanchett, she describes in detail how spectacular it was to walk on this set. Like the Fall of Berlin, this film crashed in the box office, by grossing only 6 million dollars in the theaters against its 32-million-dollar budget.

Not long before Berlin, this was Persia for the movie Scorpion King. The wars most fought here were that of the Roman Empire and Persia. Swords and chariots dominated the landscape. Scorpion King restored this area. It’s amazing just how well all the artists and crafts come together seamlessly, or so it appears, to create anyplace and anything. If you can dream it, we can make it, for a cost mind you.

This is why I love show business. It’s the behind-the-scenes attention to detail and research that goes into setting up the reality attempting to be portrayed like you’re the one living it. These bombed out sets put you smack dab into WW2. My favorite TV series growing up was Combat. At MGM, the European backlot Vic Morrow was used to seeing, looked just like this, all blown up.

Vietnam raised its ugly head here, and Vic Morrow, “Sgt- Saunders” from Combat, graced this set making it official for war. I met Vic Morrow in this same village on Twilight Zone: The Movie. Unfortunately, his next location would be his last location, where the helicopter mishap played out in Indian Dunes.

I didn’t get to meet Mr. Clooney on this shoot, but I did on his next appearance on the lot. A Nespresso commercial that he is the pitch man for was filming bright and early. They had three locations, being set up for this commercial at the Red Sea, Falls Lake and New York Street. Base camp was on New York Street. As I was powering up trailers, I look up and Clooney is pulling into our camp. But everyone was at the other sets and the star did not know exactly where everybody was at this deserted base camp. Since I was servicing all three sets with electric power, I said, “How do you do?”, and took him for a ride around the studio so he could be on the same page with all of us who start work before there is daylight…

Needless to say, there was no shortage of Nespresso on that set…

Spartacus Square

My little Cleopatra, take your daughter to work day…Christy!
Fun place to work you got here…

Written and lived by Donnie Norden…

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