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April 14, 2024

Allan Cameron, the production designer of the 2006 movie,  The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou,  had an interesting task at hand. His job was to recreate the Louvre museum  for Ron Howard’s movie even if they were  given the permission from the Louvre director Henri Loyette to shoot inside the museum itself. 

As he reasoned that they were unable to shine artificial light on the paintings, pour fake blood on the floor or have the actors rip Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings off the wall, Cameron and his crew set about recreating the Grand Gallery on a sound stage in Great Britain.  One of his most challenging task was maintaining the room’s scale. His staff not only photographed every wall in the gallery, they also measured each painting’s frame and its distance from the floor. Cameron also hired James Gemmill to recreate 150 paintings to place on the set by using digital photographs of each work as a base. Gemmil overpainted and glazed each work on aged boards or silk, adding layers of paint to match the craquelure of the originals. “The Mona Lisa itself was almost totally painted from scratch,” says Cameron, adding that his team made three versions to use in multiple takes. “Even the frames took time to accomplish. Some of them were very ornate and had very complicated wood carvings. The gold leaf, burnishing and aging each frame took weeks to finish. We even went far as to put wood-worm holes in them.”

Cameron added that certain parts of the movie were shot inside the Louvre and they were all “military maneuver.” They were extra careful when the lights and cables were carried around so they won’t go anywhere near the paintings. The curator and the Louvre security were there all the time. “To avoid scratching the floor, we used mats, put rubber balls on tripods, and made the bare-bones crew of 15 instead of the usual 150, wear soft shoes. Allan Cameron hopes that while watching the movie, people won’t know which is the set and which is the real Louvre.