A dozen hefty security guards held back the crowd gathered on a Paris street this week to glimpse US director Martin Scorsese jump into a limo at lunch break during the shoot of his latest film, a 3-D fantasy releasing late next year.
But the Oscar-winning 67-year-old, shooting in the City of Light for only the second time in 17 years, was too quick for the fans, skirting the crowd incognito on foot to be picked up a few hundred yards away by a luxury limousine.
“Keep moving; we’re shooting,” said harried security guards.
Also on hand but also shunning the paparazzi was British actor Ben Kingsley, who played in Scorsese’s recent hit, Shutter Island. Co-stars Jude Law, Asa Butterfield, Christopher Lee and Sacha Baron Cohen had the day off.
Scorsese was shooting Hugo Cabret, a tale based on a 2007 graphic novel by Brian Selznick about a boy who secretly lives in the walls of a 1930s Paris train station.
To restore the ambience of those times, a squad of carpenters, painters and sundry handymen were on hand early morning transforming the facade of the Athenee theatre in central Paris, where some of the action takes place, as well as the Opera-Louis Jouvet square the theatre stands on.
Artificial snow covered the ground and in place of its current shop fronts, the scenery wizards installed a 1930s hat-shop, watchmaker, haberdashery, pharmacy, as well as a news-stands stacked with 1931 editions.
With Paris almost empty as usual every summery August of its couple of million inhabitants and their cars, local and international film crews have flocked into town inspired both by the city’s beauty as well as new tax breaks.
The French capital recently had a major cinematic outing with the worldwide release of the partly Paris-set sci-fi blockbuster Inception and is now set for more celluloid exposure with 20 feature films being shot here this year.
This summer alone saw three major US projects.
Before Scorsese hit town, Woody Allen began shooting his latest work, Midnight in Paris, with French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in her first major film role in the movie which is set in the 1920s.
And pop star Madonna spent three days here in August to shoot part of her film W.E., about Britain’s King Edward VIII and the American divorcee Wallis Simpson for whom he abdicated in 1936.
Favourite spots for US shoots in Paris were picture-postcard Left Bank districts with Woody Allen favouring grocery-shops and eateries in the popular Latin Quarter, while Scorsese kicked off with scenes filmed inside the Sorbonne University in the same area.
Madonna helmed in historic up-market Saint-Germain-des-Pres.