'Inception' Cast, Crew Braved Real Blizzard For Ski Scenes

Cinematographer Wally Pfister describes the movie's treacherous, James Bond-like shoot.

"Inception" won its second-straight weekend at the box office, the thriller's stellar buzz conquering the #1 aspirations of Angelina Jolie's "Salt." Moviegoers simply couldn't get enough of Leonardo DiCaprio and his team of fantastical bandits who machine-gun their way through one action-heavy dream state after another.

MTV News has already explored the intricacies of some of those eye-popping "Inception" scenes, from a wacky zero-gravity fight scene to a super slow-motion crash sequence to a shot of Paris folding itself up into a cube. Now, we turn our attention to a snowy scene in which Leo and his crew ski and shoot their way through a world that calls to mind some classic James Bond flicks like "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "For Your Eyes Only."

That's no coincidence, according to cinematographer Wally Pfister. "We were wondering, 'How are we going to capture that action?' " he recalled. "We went back to watch Bond films."

With those Bond movies in mind, the production took over a shuttered ski resort in Calgary and built a massive set. The shoot took a full two weeks to capture — the final weeks of principle photography. "We were running around with a lot of handheld cameras," Pfister explained. "And I had a wonderful ski cameraman who could handle the camera while skiing down the slope, so we were able to get dynamic footage."

For a while, though, the filmmakers were worried they wouldn't even get a chance to roll their cameras. "The scariest thing about that situation was that after we built this huge set, we found ourselves praying for snow," he said. "It could have gone either way. It was eight months of biting our nails hoping we'd get some snow. We were prepared to make some snow, but there's no way we would have gotten the images we wanted without real snow.

"You've got to be careful what you hope for, because we got a blizzard," he added with a laugh. "It made shooting difficult and cold and uncomfortable."

As the snow swept in, the crew turned toward Nolan, a director with a couple enormous productions already on his résumé. After his experience on "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," Nolan has become — at least in the eyes of his team — nothing short of presidential in his authority and confidence.

"Chris is our commander-in-chief, and I'm one of the field generals, and we get out there and it's combat," Pfister said. "It's like a military operation in terms of precision, blended with artistic inspiration. We were able to get visceral action sequences and also a fascinating and fun bit of storytelling."

Check out everything we've got on "Inception."

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