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The Prime Minister

The Prime Minister

  • Director Erik Van Looy
  • Writers Erik Van Looy, Carl Joos
  • Main Producer FBO
  • Co-producers Woestijnvis (BE), Millstreet Films (NL)
  • Cast Koen De Bouw, Tine Reymer, Charlotte Vandermeersch, Dirk Roofthooft, Stijn Van Opstal, Wim Willaert
  • Genre Thriller
  • Local Suppliers AED Studios, Aeroplay Films, Ace Image Factory
  • Total Budget 5 million EUR
  • Sales The Works International

Production designer Kurt Loyens found the production value he needed for The Prime Minister in various parts of Flanders. But he still had to build a toilet.

The Prime Minister is the new film from leading Flemish director Eric Van Looy (The Memory of a Killer, Loft). It opened in Belgium at the end of October, topping the local charts for three consecutive weeks. A taut, disturbing political thriller, it is, when you get down to it, basically a classic ‘What if..?’ story. What if an international terrorist group were to kidnap the Belgian Prime Minister on the eve of a visit by the President of the United States, holding his wife and two children hostage and telling him they will die if he doesn’t kill the President? The Prime Minister (played by Van Looy regular Koen De Bouw) has to carry on with his political duties while trying to figure out the two key ‘what ifs?’ of the story. What happens if he doesn’t kill POTUS..? And what happens if he does?

STRIKING AND MEMORABLE

For the story to work and the tension to be maintained, all the visual details don’t just have to be right: they have to be as striking and memorable as the film’s story. And that is where Kurt Loyens comes in.
One of Flanders’ most experienced production designers, Loyens studied at film school, then worked his way up from assistant to props master to art director to production designer. Loft was his first major movie and his first with Van Looy. He went on to do both the Dutch version and the US remake - all, he says, with totally different sets.
“In Holland it was a different director and the exterior was completely different, so the interior had to be different, too. Then the American one was three times bigger than the Belgian Loft and in a totally different environment!”

A LOT OF PRODUCTION VALUE

At the heart of the new film’s design is the contrast between the opulent state apartments - created out of reallife buildings like the imposing Vixx Hotel in Mechelen, the old Antwerp courthouse and the historic Aula Academica at Ghent University – and the sinister, abandoned coal washing plant where the bad guys are based.
“We had a really good location manager (Ludo Volders),” says Loyens. “We asked him to find locations of two different sorts: some high-class interiors for the PM; and then, for the terrorists, we wanted to put them in an industrial setting. That was such a strange location,” he recalls. “It was a bit like an MC Escher picture with lots of stairways.
“There is a lot of production value in the exteriors of The Prime Minister,” he says. “It was difficult to find it all but I think it looks really rich.” Two things they couldn’t find, however: a toilet of palatial proportions; and a flooded apartment. Those were built in the AED Studios in Lint.

 

Aula Academica, Ghent University © Visit Ghent

 

The Prime Minister Villa, Sint-Martens-Latem (l), The Terrorist's Villa, Sint-Genesius-Rode (r) © Kurt Loyens

STUDIO SETS TOO

“The studio was about 800 square metres,” says Loyens, “and we built the two sets next to each other. We needed to do the toilet because there’s so many difficult scenes set in it. We had to build moving walls and a removable ceiling. It was all covered with beautiful tiles because you had to believe it was in a big, 1920s-style building in Brussels. Then we built the apartment of the Prime Minister’s lover. There’s a sequence where he’s dreaming that he’s in her apartment and it’s raining inside, so we built the whole set on a stage and put it in a big tank.”
Loyens knows all about Flanders’ historic buildings, having just recreated great chunks of 16th-century Antwerp on a huge set for the Screen Flanders supported Dutch-Belgian coproduction Storm, a teen thriller about a young boy battling the forces of the Inquisition, which just opened in the Netherlands. But there are still lots of beautiful real-life Flemish locations to be discovered, he reckons. So a day out with Loyens is likely to involve frequent stopovers. “I have a location map on my computer,” he chuckles, “so when I see beautiful things, I always stop and put them in.”

  

Studio sets @ AED Studios 

KURT LOYENS *

  • 2017 Storm
  • 2016 The Prime Minister
  • 2016 In My Fathers Garden
  • 2015 Rendez-Vous
  • 2014 The Loft (US)
  • 2014 Bowling Balls
  • 2014 Secrets of War
  • 2012 The Hot Potato
  • 2012 Salamander (TV series)
  • 2010 Loft (NL)
  • 2008 Loft
  • 2007 Ben X

* selected filmography