Hollywood building Gallic backlot

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PARIS -- Ever since the Lumiere brothers learned how to hold a camera, Paris has been synonymous with the big screen. The region has welcomed more than 200 films since 2001 and has an annual film fund of $18 million, which benefits international productions filming or postproducing in Paris and its environs. The more French postproduction facilities used for a film, the more aid the film receives from the French government.

Recent productions to touch down in the City of Lights include Sofia Coppola's 2006 period piece "Marie Antoinette," which was facilitated by the Center des Monuments Nationaux and employed a number of the country's historic monuments and public sites; Ron Howard's 2006 blockbuster "The Da Vinci Code," which shot in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and at the Louvre; and Paul Greengrass' upcoming Universal actioner "The Bourne Ultimatum," which shot in the capital last November.

"There is, of course, the image that the French and the English don't get along, but it all worked out," says Raphael Benoliel, line producer on "Mr. Bean's Holiday." Although the producers weren't granted their wish to completely block traffic at the Arc de Triomphe's hectic intersection in Paris, "all of the different towns understood what we wanted to do and played along with us," Benoliel says.

Director Brett Ratner and his gang stopped traffic when they came to Paris last year to film New Line's "Rush Hour 3." The film crew spent four weeks in Paris starting in September 2006 for principal photography and two weeks of second-unit work.

Although production workers arrived in town weeks before filming for comprehensive preproduction, working with the French took some getting used to, as Ratner and company needed to adapt to shorter working hours -- French law only permits eight hours a day -- and longer lunch breaks. All in all, however, the cultural clash didn't prevent the capital from charming everyone involved in the production.

"I had a great experience in Paris," Ratner says. "Every direction you point the camera, you're getting something special. Paris is absolutely the most beautiful city around. Seeing the dailies every day, we'd say, 'Oh, my God, look at that."

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