Lights, Camera, Action! Part One

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Windows shot out...helicopters circling overhead...police vehicles chasing suspects... That's all pretty standard fare in "Smokin' Aces," a new big-budget mobster flick...a drama-dark comedy as the crew calls it.

Director Joe Carnahan explains:

"If a character like Sinatra--but this guy, Buddy Israel is much more Las Vegas-based...if he decided rather than be a big-time entertainer, he wanted to be a big-time thug and he tried to cross over into that world. What would happen? I think he'd end up tracking mud all over the place and screwing people up...which he does."

Carnahan hails from Sacramento. He tells us that his fascination with the mob--and its influence on Lake Tahoe a la Godfather Part 2--began as a child.

He just knew the casinos of the south shore would be the perfect backdrop for his third movie because of the location's contrasts between natural beauty and casino culture.

"There's just great moments of beauty in this movie with the lake--it almost looks fake, that's how beautiful it is--contrasted by the unbelievably wild story and the violence and the bizarre world we're creating. I just thought Lake Tahoe would be a beautiful backdrop for that."

The cast and crew spent 8 days shooting on the shores of Tahoe, but for budget reasons, returned to Southern California to shoot the rest of the film on sound stages.

But Carnahan says locals will definitely be able to recognize Tahoe landmarks: Cave Rock on Highway 50, The Horizon Hotel and Casino and Cesar's Tahoe--although that name was changed to the "Nomad" for shooting purposes.

One scene--set in front of Cesar's--involved a large crowd of extras, a fake TV news crew and a police vehicle in hot pursuit.

We witnessed take...after take...after take. Even for a movie on a short shooting schedule like this one, the pacing of a movie can be tedious. It's not unreasonable to spend hours on one thirty second scene.

"We have to be very specific and logical as to how we attack it. There's not a lot of room for fat. You have to be very lean and aggressive and I have to look at something and know when to move on," says Carnahan.

The tenth floor of the Horizon hotel is being used for a lot of scenes; the crew has taken over just about every suite on the floor. Each room has a different purpose: holding props, special effects...and a director/producer room.

Join us tomorrow at 5:30 for Part two of our series when we take a look at the economic impact "Smokin' Aces" is having on South Lake Tahoe.

And just a hint--Starbucks was a VERY popular spot. We'll also tell you what kinds of coffee drinks Ben Affleck and Ray Liotta order!