The Mummy filmed in the UK and Namibia
Tom Cruise’s version of monster movie The Mummy filmed much of its stage work at Shepperton Studios near London, but also shot scenes on a specially-built set in Namibia.
Directed by Alex Kurtzman, the movie follows Tom Cruise’s soldier of fortune as he accidentally awakens ancient Egyptian princess Ahmanet from her desert burial place.
Many of the film’s key sets were built using Shepperton’s expansive facilities, with stage constructions including ancient Egyptian tomb interiors and historical catacombs.
There was also a plush office set belonging to key character Dr Henry Jekyll, introduced partly to set up an expanded universe of rebooted monster characters from Universal’s archive.
Location filming took place at multiple sites in central London, including beneath Charing Cross station, at the Natural History Museum and in the English capital’s Square Mile financial district.
Scenes set in Iraq and Egypt were shot in Namibia in southern Africa. Working with South African service company Moonlighting, the components of an Iraqi village set were built in Cape Town and then driven to Swakopmund on Namibia’s Atlantic coast for final construction.
“Namibia was chosen because of its vast desert locations,” says Genevieve Hofmeyr, of Moonlighting, in comments to KFTV. “South Africa does not have sandy dune locations, which the script required."
“Swakopmund offers great hotel and support infrastructure in very close proximity to the desert landscapes," Hofmeyr says. "The total time it took from securing and preparing the site for the village and building it was approximately three months.”
The village is the setting for a drone attack in the film. A specially-designed collapsible set element was shipped to Namibia from the UK for the shoot, enabling the crew to destroy and re-set a building within minutes to accommodate multiple takes.
Namibia is not yet known as an international production hub but Swakopmund recently got a profile boost hosting desert scenes for George Miller’s dystopian action movie Mad Max: Fury Road.
Producers of The Mummy travelled to Bordeaux in France to film one of the movie’s key action set pieces involving a zero-gravity plane crash.
The scene occurs when the supernatural power of Ahmanet’s sarcophagus causes a cargo plane to dive out of control, briefly creating a zero-gravity environment on the plane.
To achieve this as a practical effect, the production team worked with Bordeaux-based company Novespace to film the key cast on a series of parabolic flights where a plane performed a series of steep dives to create brief weightlessness.
The technique has been used before for filmmaking purposes – perhaps most famously for Ron Howard’s 1995 space-based movie Apollo 13 – but has severe production limitations as each dive generates only a few seconds of zero-gravity.
The real zero-gravity moments filmed for The Mummy were combined with footage filmed on a specially-built aircraft set back at Shepperton.
The Mummy is an attempt to reboot the franchise that was last launched in 1999 by director Stephen Sommers and led to two sequels, all set in the 1930s. A key difference with Kurtzman’s movie is the switch to a modern-day setting.
Sommers largely used Morocco for the desert locations in his 1999 version of The Mummy and then The Mummy Returns in 2001, a country that nearly 20 years later remains hugely popular for desert story settings.
Images: Universal Pictures