Coolest Movie Sets Ever: How They Filmed That 'Inception' Hallway Scene

Coolest Movie Sets Ever: How They Filmed That 'Inception' Hallway Scene

Feb 06, 2014

This is the first in a new series at Movies.com celebrating some of the coolest movie sets ever built. We'll be looking back at movies new and old (particularly the latter, since green screens are shrinking the size of sets every year), but figured we'd start with something a bit newer for the first entry.


Inception Hallway fight

The rotating corridor and hotel-room fight sequence in Christopher Nolan’s Inception is one of the most unforgettable action scenes of this century – and it’s even more amazing after you watch this video demonstrating how the effect was achieved.

Done entirely in camera, the scene required a massive rotating cylindrical set built with steel and motors that would turn the corridor and rooms a complete 360 degrees – while actors and cameras were spinning along with it and creating movie magic. The effect, inspired by Kubrick’s work in 2001, is absolutely stunning.

As the video demonstrates, building the rig was just the first hurdle to overcome when it came to creating this iconic showdown. Once construction was finished, the actors, stunt people and cinematographer Wally Pfister had to figure out how to work within the confines of the spinning structure.

This proved very challenging for Pfister, who had to make decisions about whether to lock the cameras down or set them up to spin along with the set. If that weren’t enough of a logistical nightmare, Pfister also had to contend with constantly changing lights as the room moved in a complete circle with each finished revolution.

The shoot was also intense for the actors, who had to not only perform their choreographed movements, but had to do it while the very ground beneath them was constantly threatening to knock them off balance. As Joseph Gordon-Levitt reveals, the hallway segment wasn’t particularly dangerous, as falling only meant an eight-foot drop onto pads. The room portion, however, was much more challenging – with a 20-foot spill awaiting any performer who got out of sync with the room’s movement. The crew worked to make this safer by varying the speed of rotation throughout the scene.

It’s hard to believe that anyone would go to these lengths to shoot a scene with such a huge and expensive set in the age of CGI effects. The results justify the expenditure, though – as the corridor brawl in Inception is one of the most unforgettable scenes in the history of cinema.

Go behind the scenes and see how the magicians make their magic in this amazing clip. 

[via Behind the Scenes]

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