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”This was by far the biggest production we had in Vienna at least since I can remember,” said Marijana Stoisits, who heads up the Vienna Film Commission as its managing director.
One of the big productions in Vienna that people used to mention was The Three Musketeers with Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen and Chris O’Donnell in the 1990s where Vienna stood in for Paris. More recently, the Austrian capital also hosted Woman in Gold. “They shot in Vienna for three weeks, but it was not as big as Mission: Impossible,” Stoisits says.
More than 400 people worked on the Mi5 shoots, she says. “And there was also an explosion in the city center, which is also in the trailer, so it was very involved,” she adds.
How did Vienna attract the big Hollywood production? “There was a lot of activity, but it was all worth it,” Stoisits recalls THR. “We were approached by a local production manager working with Paramount. We did the first scouting in late October 2013 with a production designer and the location scout. We tried to show them everything that is beautiful in Vienna, although they, of course, had an idea what would be needed for the script.”
She adds: “From the beginning, they wanted to shoot in the State Opera, so that was one of the first locations we showed them. I had heard that Tom Cruise knew Vienna and the State Opera and he was very keen on shooting here. And director Christopher McQuarrie and the rest of the team also were very enthusiastic. But it was important that we got funding from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, so they could also apply for money.”
Under the country’s incentives scheme, foreign productions can get up to 25 percent of their expenses in Austria capped at $1.2 million (1.1 million euros).
”The Opera was interested from the beginning,” recalls Stoisits. “It was just about making it work time-wise” and providing a chance to take advantage of the incentives.
Stoisits also lauds her team for providing honest assessments to the production team and says the two sides worked together really well right from the start. “We immediately had very good chemistry and a strong personal relationship,” she says. “I think they appreciated the time they spent in Vienna. And I feel the producers, the director and the rest of the team trusted us, because we were straightforward with them. Sometimes we said this or that could be difficult to do, but we’ll get it done. We didn’t just make promises and tell them what they wanted to hear, so they knew they could trust us.”
One of the biggest challenges was closing down Vienna’s Ringstrasse, a circular road surrounding the city center that gives access to many of Vienna’s key sights, during the shoot for four days as the film team requested. “That’s a central street in the middle of the city, but I was in contact with the city administration and the mayor at an early stage and said we have this chance and all want the production to come here, so we have to make things work,” recalls Stoisits. “They agreed and really supported us, and we pulled it off. Even Tom Cruise himself said he didn’t think this would work out.”
The film commission had to work with the city administration, the police and others involved, including the public transport authority, taxi stands, fire police and sightseeing tour operators, she says.
For the Thursday evening world premiere and the days leading up to it, the Ringstrasse will also be partially closed. How did Vienna get the premiere? “During shooting Tom Cruise said it would be fantastic to premiere the film in the State Opera, and I agreed,” Stoisits recalls. But the film was supposed to open in December. “The State Opera is fully booked for the next two to three years except for its summer break, so there was no way to have the film premiere here,” she explains. “But we got lucky, because they ended up moving up the release of the film to August. So suddenly we had this open window for the State Opera.”
With buzz in the city already building for the premiere, she says it will be a treat for the film commission, the city and, she hopes, the film team. “I think they would not come back if they hadn’t had a positive and good experience in Vienna,” Stoisits says. “For us, it is a great honor.”
Austria, but not Vienna, this year also hosted shoots for the new James Bond movie Spectre. But Stoisits hopes that the positive experience of the mi5 shoot will bring more Hollywood productions to the Austrian capital given that they employ local film folks, strengthen local crews’ skills, bring an economic boost and give audiences worldwide a glimpse of Vienna.
“We definitely hope that other productions will come to Vienna,” says Stoisits. “We have wonderful locations. And someone in L.A. asked me if Vienna was overfilmed, and I said you are lucky, Vienna is absolutely not overfilmed.”
Concludes the film commissioner: “Everybody knows London, Paris and New York. But not that many films have shot in Vienna, so I think it’s time for Vienna.”
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