Here's an unexpected perk of the holiday movie season: With so many films shot in exotic locales, moviegoers can live out some of their jet-setting dreams. For the mere price of a ticket, you can sail the Mediterranean with Bill Murray, bask on a Thai beach with Renée Zellweger, or cruise the Grand Canal with Al Pacino. But a filmgoer's fantasy can be a filmmaker's headache. As Bridget Jones director Beeban Kidron admits: ''Dare I say it? There's no place like home.'' Here, a look at a few films that will have you globe-trotting this winter.
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
LOCATIONS England; Austria; Thailand. In the sequel, Bridget and friends go from galoshes to flip-flops. Thailand When It Sizzles Filming on Phuket Island was complicated by the heat, notes director Kidron, ''especially when you're trying to look a certain way and not be burned to a crisp, and then you add lights to the scenario.'' To keep cool, Zellweger ''had this amazing clothing with an SPF factor built in.'' Be Our Guest For a ''slightly extravagant'' scene involving 300 extras playing prostitutes, Kidron says they had an unexpected visitor. ''It was phenomenal that the [Thai] deputy prime minister was willing to be on the set especially in a scene about the sex industry.''
Flight of the Phoenix
LOCATION Namibia, Africa. Director John Moore reset his remake of the 1965 Saharan plane-crash drama in Mongolia's Gobi Desert. To complete this geography lesson, the film, starring Dennis Quaid and Giovanni Ribisi, was actually shot in Southwest Africa's ''surprisingly temperate'' Namib Desert. Why Gobi? ''I did some research using pilot charts and there is actually an area in the Gobi that is uncharted,'' Moore explains. ''So it's one of the few spots you can still genuinely get lost in.'' Name Game Situated 15 miles outside the city of Swakopmund, which housed the cast and crew during the 80-day shoot, the film's main set was an ''amphitheater-style'' dune that Moore affectionately dubbed the Berlin Wall. ''When your entire set is made of sand dunes, you have to start naming them,'' he explains. Out, Damn Sand! ''There's a lot of silicate in [Namib's] sand,'' notes Moore, ''so when it becomes airborne, it can short-circuit the equipment. You didn't want to make a move and then have to go back because you'd get some pretty ugly looks from the grips.''
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
LOCATION Italy. Smitten with Rome's Cinecittà Studios during a press tour for The Royal Tenenbaums, director Wes Anderson purposely shaped this script, about a Jacques Cousteau-style oceanographer (played by Bill Murray), to film on the boot-shaped peninsula. Island Hopping In addition to Rome and Naples, ''we also shot on the Mediterranean island of Ponza and on an uninhabited island next door,'' says producer Barry Mendel. ''We scouted the coast a few times by motorboat, which was a cool way to [cast] locales.'' A Novel Idea Thanks to a mutual friend, author Gore Vidal allowed Anderson to film at his previously off-limits mountain-top estate in Ravello. Says Mendel, ''It was a great honor.'' Say Cheese ''There's a great scene [on one of the islands] where you can see the team running through this Vietnamesque landscape,'' adds Mendel. ''You think you're in Apocalypse Now or something, but it's actually Sabaudia, the region where they make that fantastic mozzarella di buffalo.''