'Jumper' traveled the real world

Historic Colosseum shoot among film's many location challenges

It just might be the ultimate location movie.

Regency's "Jumper," starring Hayden Christensen, directed by Doug Liman and distributed by Fox, follows a man who discovers that he has the power to teleport anywhere in the world. In making the sci-fi actioner, the filmmakers took on those powers as well, criss-crossing the globe to more than a dozen locations, going to far-flung continents for just a single shot.

"Doug and (producer/co-writer) Simon (Kinberg) and I made a decision pretty early about wanting a movie about teleportation to have some authenticity and not feel like some special effects extravaganza," said Lucas Foster, one of the film's producers. "We wanted people who had been to those places or who live there to go: 'Wow, they really went there. That is Shibuya. That is the Colosseum. For real, and it's not some digital version.' We were willing to sacrifice other things to have that."

The production had its base in Toronto, shooting on soundstages and in surrounding municipalities like Peterborough, N.H., which doubled as Ann Arbor, Mich. But then it "teleported" to locations in New York, Paris, Rome, Cairo, Dubai, Tokyo, Prague, Baton Rouge, La., Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, Baja California, Mexico, and the real Ann Arbor — hiring location managers in each place in which it relocated.

The "Jumper" crew didn't use location scouts. Instead, Lucas, production designer Oliver Scholl and first assistant director Kim Winther took on that job themselves. They checked out 25 countries, including places that they ultimately decided didn't fit the shoot.

Sometimes locations were booked and then fell apart. A cave lair scene that originally was to have filmed in Big Bend, Ore., fell through when the company was denied permission for helicopter access to a remote area that it thought it had lined up. "Jumper" instead scrambled to Horseshoe Bend just outside Page, Ariz.

"Jumper's" biggest coup, however, was securing a shoot in the Colosseum in Rome. The site is a protected historical and cultural landmark.

"They don't rent it out for parties," Foster said.

But the production did not want to digitally reproduce the location, needed for a big action sequence, and pursued permission with fervor, enlisting help from contacts at Rome's Cinecitta studio, getting the city's mayor on its side and writing impassioned letters to Italy's Ministry of Culture, which oversees the Colosseum.

"They never give permission," said Fiorella Oldoini, who works on international productions at Cinecitta. Oldoini said the last time a film shot inside the Colosseum was decades ago, and it was Italian film, naturally.

The producers eventually wore the government down and got the go-ahead.

"This is the first time it was used for an international production," Oldoini said.

"Jumper" was allowed three shooting days, but it could film only during nonpublic hours — two hours in the morning and an hour and 45 minutes in the afternoon. In between, the production shot scenes around the surrounding neighborhood.

For the more destructive parts of the action sequence, which were shot in Toronto, the production built a 135-foot-long duplicate of the Colosseum on a soundstage. The two sets of footage were then melded together.

"Our goal was nothing less than (to have) people going, 'How did they do that in the Colosseum?!' " Foster said.