Principal photography began on location in Vancouver, B.C., in July 1998. The Greater Vancouver area doubles for Whidbey Island, Washington; Evergreen, Colorado; and San Francisco. For the last quarter of the movie, the production moved to New Orleans.
Beresford says: “The setting of the film is the northwestern part of the country, and Vancouver and Seattle are extremely similar physically and very close geographically. Vancouver is a spectacular city, a port city with huge mountains behind it, and the contrast between it and the heat and exoticism of New Orleans helps the story really work.”
In determining the look of the picture, production designer Howard Cummings says: “We start out in a place (the Pacific Northwest) that’s mostly natural colors in greens and browns, then move to New Orleans, which is all about neon-colored lights. Also, our main character is in a prison for quite a while, so it’s very colorless.”
“At one point, she makes a decision to go on the run, so I added all these red neon lights outside the window while she’s thinking that she’s going to cross the line and actually break the law. After that, the movie gets heavily layered with colors. It starts with a very monochromatic look and ends up with a very colorful look as the drama increases.”
As for filming in New Orleans, co-producer Richard Rothschild says: “The European look of the French Quarter is great, but that look presents a challenge. Production companies need a lot of space to lay out vehicles and equipment and cameras and lights, and essentially, there is no space in the Quarter. There is no space to stand, no space to work, and no space to get out of the way of the hundreds of tourists who flock to you every time you start to shoot.”
The cast and crew rose to the challenge, however, and the production was able to capture the unique atmosphere of New Orleans. One important scene, a charity gala at a hotel in the French Quarter, was actually filmed in the courtyard of the historic Hermman-Grima House, which is open to the public and located adjacent to Bourbon Street. The interiors of the film’s hotel were shot in a mansion in Vancouver. Other sites included the Prince George Regional Correctional Facility in the northern part of British Columbia, which the designers actually had to make uglier; and a historic above-ground cemetery in New Orleans.
The wardrobe also plays a big part in the movie because, Judd says, “it helps define the immense contrast between my former life and the things that are meaningful to me when I get out of prison. So it starts with very comfortable casual, kind of very expensive clothing – Libby being unaware that she and Nick have been living beyond their means.”
Libby goes from wearing Armani at her trial to work shirts and jeans in prison. “And for most of the time I’m looking for my son,” Judd says, “I’m wearing the same way-too-big linen pants, which sums up how intensely focused I am on getting my son back to the exclusion of anything else, fashion included. Then there is the beautiful Armani gown that I wear for the auction, a gown I need in my search for Matty, but which I have to steal because I can’t afford one anymore.”