Hollywood conjures the Middle East -- Location scouts get creative in ''The Kingdom,'' ''Redacted,'' and ''Rendition''

September 28, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

Getting a studio to greenlight a movie about the Middle East is hard. Finding a safe place to film it can be even trickier. Says Steve Saeta, exec producer of the military thriller The Kingdom, ”My crew looked at me and said, ‘Are you out of your mind? You’re taking us to the Middle East?”’ Here’s how four big fall features about the volatile region tackled their biggest challenge: location, location, location.

The Kingdom Filmed in United Arab Emirates
The glossy, tourist-friendly city of Dubai was the first choice for this movie about an FBI team in Saudi Arabia, which was out of the question for insurance and safety reasons. But Saeta says that access was denied because ”[Dubai officials] seemed to be unhappy with how they were portrayed” in 2005’s Syriana, which was filmed there. So producers settled on the capital city of Abu Dhabi, where unmarked military guards helped them feel ”totally safe.”

Redacted Filmed in Jordan
Director Brian De Palma says choosing Jordan to fill in for Iraq in this drama about the rape and murder of a 15-year-old Iraqi girl by U.S. soldiers was simple: ”The terrain is very similar to Iraq — plus they have close to a million Iraqi refugees there. All the Arabs in my movie are Iraqis.”

Rendition and In The Valley of Elah Filmed in Morocco
After being denied insurance clearance to film in Egypt because of its close proximity to Iraq, Rendition director Gavin Hood relocated the setting of his CIA-themed drama to an unnamed North African country, and assembled a crew in Morocco of nearly 1,000 extras from Israel, Algeria, and Egypt — ”for some of whom,” he says, ”making this film carries potential risks.” Director Paul Haggis also went to Morocco for Elah‘s Iraq-set flashbacks, but tells EW that he actually considered filming in the war-torn country itself, but only ”for a second.”

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