Speeding across space and time zones, Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth touches down for five tête-á-taxis in L.A., New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki. The locales were chosen partly because of the elegant symmetry inherent in beginning in L.A. at dusk and ending in Helsinki at dawn. But the real reason had little to do with the auteur’s ”vision.” ”I found the cities pretty much based on where the actors I wanted to work with lived,” says Jarmusch. ”If Roberto Benigni were Chinese and lived in Hong Kong, we’d have shot there.”
In fact, because the film was shot during winter, when it was cold everywhere except L.A., Jarmusch joked with the crew that Night on Earth II be filmed in Dublin, Detroit, Dakar, Istanbul, and Mexico City in August. ”They were not amused,” he says.
The filming, which took place almost exclusively inside the cabs, was technically difficult. With all the equipment needed, each car took a week to prepare, and each city posed its own problems. The Helsinki shoot proved not only chilly (the average temperature was 30 degrees below zero), but harrowing. At one point ”the car with the actors in it broke loose from the truck that was towing it,” says Jarmusch, ”and stopped on the tracks of trolley cars that were approaching from both directions.” Fortunately, no one was hurt. And in Rome, Jarmusch adds, nothing was simple. ”You’d ask someone to get a pair of black loafers, and then we would drive for 45 minutes and there’s a pair of white patent-leather oxfords.” That’s shoe business for you.