How do you make the United States' most controversial prison funny?
Do nothing, says Tony Fanning, production designer for the stoner comedy sequel, "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay." "I consciously stayed away from anything I thought was hokey," says Fanning, whose eclectic credits include theater and such high-tech films as Robert Zemeckis' "Polar Express" and Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds." "The more believable it is, the funnier things are."
But the sterile modernity of Guantanamo didn't square with writer-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg's vision. Dressing a condemned building in Shreveport, La., (where most of "Harold & Kumar Escape" was filmed) to look like a decaying Cuban city fulfilled the directors' brief. And Fanning did nothing to brighten the environment, making Harold and Kumar's orange jumpsuits pop on screen.
Though comedies can often speak the truth in ways dramas can't, audiences may be laughing too hard at Harold and Kumar's exploits to hear the larger message. "It's a very politically incorrect script with politically incorrect characters doing politically incorrect things," Fanning says. "Jon and Hayden manage to offend every sensibility across the board, while also pointing out issues in our country."