Where the Oscar hopefuls shot their films...
The Oscar nominations for 2015 are out. And while members of the Academy have been criticised for a distinct lack of gender and ethnic diversity in their voting, there are some interesting stories in terms of production locations. Here we provide a short summary of where 10 of this year’s hopefuls were made.
Grand Budapest Hotel
If Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel converts any of its nine Oscar nominations into shiny little statuettes there will be much rejoicing in Germany, which is where most of the film was shot (thanks to the country’s very attractive tax incentive regime). The studio that played host to many of the film’s sumptuous sets was the highly-regarded Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam, while the majority of locations were in the state of Saxony (for example Osterstein, Waldenburg and Hainewalde).
The location that has garnered most attention is the Saxony town of Görlitz, 60 miles east of Dresden on the German-Polish border. Görlitz, which has been used in a number of recent films including Inglourious Basterds, The Monuments Men and The Book Thief, is the home of Görlitzer Warenhaus, an art nouveau department store that doubled as the hotel’s interior. While Grand Hotel Budapest is undoubtedly a huge achievement for Germany, it’s worth noting that the film also crossed into Poland for a cemetery scene (shot in Krakow).
With nine Oscar nominations and widespread critical acclaim, Birdman, featuring Michael Keaton, is impossible to ignore. But it’s not the most adventurous film when it comes to locations. Almost the entire film is shot in and around Broadway’s St. James Theatre (New York), which is located on 44th Street between 7th & 8th Avenues. Shooting took place over 30 days in April/May of 2013, at a time when the theatre was between shows.
In the film, Keaton is a washed up movie actor trying to revive his career by putting on a Broadway show. In reality, the St. James has served as home to a number of historic plays including the Broadway premiere of Oklahoma! Birdman features the St. James' stage, lobby area and exterior, but the backstage scenes were shot at the Kaufman Astoria Studios. A bar that is featured in the film, the Rum House, is located three blocks north of the St. James.
Already regarded as one of the most iconic moments of the film is the scene where Michael Keaton walks through Times Square in just his underpants. Variety magazine has an excellent breakdown of how this was achieved, given the fact that it wasn’t possible to shut down Times Square or hire huge numbers of extras. There’s also a great description on YouTube with director Alejandro González Iñárritu discusses this sequence.
It doesn’t seem particularly surprising that Oscar-nominated American Sniper (directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Bradley Cooper) was shot in California, until you realise that the home of Hollywood has been hemorrhaging productions like this to neighbouring US states such as New Mexico for years.
The chief beneficiary was Blue Cloud Movie Ranch in Santa Clarita, which provided a Middle East-style standing set to double for the film’s combat zone locations. Additional California-based scenes were shot at Paramount Ranch, Golden Oaks Ranch, former Air Force base San Bernardino and California/Mexico border town El Centro, where a disused factory was used to portray derelict Iraqi buildings.
The main foreign location to benefit was Morocco, where production services firm Zak supported a 12-day shoot in the proximity of capital Rabat. The main reason California has struggled to hold on to productions in recent years has been its uncompetitive tax incentive. But with increased financial support now in place for films, it will be confident of securing more projects like American Sniper.
Mike Leigh’s artist biopic Mr. Turner was overlooked in the acting categories but has been nominated in cinematography, production design, costume design and music – original score. In location terms, the film is an excellent advert for the UK, with numerous parts of the country featured. Hampermill House in Watford, for example, was used to recreate 118-119 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, the house where Turner ended his days.
Production designer Suzie Davies told the Evening Standard newspaper how the front garden of the house was “replaced” with the Thames beach, complete with a pontoon and boats, to create the illusion of being by the river. Other locations included Kingsand in Cornwall, which doubled for 1930s Margate in Kent (due to the modernisation in the town of Margate).
Other locations include Petworth House & Park in West Sussex, Bedfordshire’s Luton Hoo Estate (which was used for market scenes), and Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham, which was used for Royal Academy of Arts interiors. A rowing scene was filmed at Stangate Creek in Swale, mirroring a famous watercolour by Turner circa 1823. HMS Gannet, which is located at Chatham's historical dockyard, doubled for a pleasure vessel of the period located on the River Thames.
Unbroken was tipped to secure a best director nomination for Angelina Jolie but in the end the film had to make do with a cinematography nomination for the renowned Roger Deakins. The film tells the story of US Olympian Louis Zamperini who survived in a raft for 47 days after his bomber was shot down in WW2 and then was sent to a series of Japanese POW camps.
Jolie shot the film in Australia, using Fox Studios and Village Roadshow Studios as well as locations in New South Wales and Queensland throughout 2013. Post was also done in Australia. One of the more high-profile filming locations was Cockatoo Island, which was also the base for Hugh Jackman’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2008. Some of the water-based scenes were shot around Moreton Bay.
To service this part of the production (mainly the scenes where the actors are drifting in rafts), Jolie’s crew hired a ferry and turned it into a floating film platform, complete with studio and make-up room. Other Australian locations to feature included Fort Lytton National Park and Blacktown International Sports Park. The latter was used to double the 1936 Olympics Stadium and Pitt Street in Sydney was also used to recreate some Japanese street scenes.
The Imitation Game
Eddie Redmayne is probably Britain’s best chance of securing a “Best Actor in a Leading Role” Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. But Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Imitation Game is more interesting from a location perspective.
While Redmayne’s film was shot entirely in and around Cambridge, The Imitation Game moved between London, Sherbourne School, Bicester Aerodrome and Bletchley Park, which was home to Britain’s World War 2 codebreakers. Recent interest in Bletchley was first aroused by Robert Harris’ novel Enigma, which was adapted into a 2001 film. However Bletchley itself didn’t feature prominently as a filming location until 2012 TV series The Bletchley Circle, which focused on the adventures of four female code-breakers based at the site. It was then chosen as a key filming location for The Imitation Game.
Bletchley Park is hoping that the film will lead to a boost in tourism, and has created an exhibition in the room where the film’s bar scenes were filmed. Costumes worn in the film are also on show.
Paweł Pawlikowski’s Ida is one of five films shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film. But the black and white, authored, movie stands out because it has also been nominated for best cinematography (Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lynzewski).
The film, which centres on a young nun’s coming of age, was entirely shot in Poland at locations such as Lodz, Zgierz, Mianow, Pabianice and Szczebrzeszyn. One of the most evocative locations in the film is Klemensów, a palace built in 1746 for Teresa Zamojska and her son Klemens. Featured as Ida’s convent in the film, it was the main residence of the family until 1941.
After WW2 it transformed into a social welfare home. Ida is the first film Pawlikowski has shot in his native Poland and he has made great use of the country’s bleak but evocative landscape. Most of his key work has been done while living in the UK.
Into The Woods
Principal photography on Into The Woods, the movie adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s hit musical, took place at Shepperton Studios in September 2013. In terms of locations, Dover Castle, Waverley Abbey, Richmond Park and Windsor Great Park were all employed. Windsor Great Park was used for many of the scenes in the woods. It was also used for the duet Agony, which took place at the Park’s artificial waterfall.
Some of the film’s locations already have a film heritage. Hambleden Village in Buckinghamshire, for example, has previously appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, while Dover Castle has shown up in Johnny English and The Other Boleyn Girl. It is also featured in the BBC’s lavish new period drama Wolf Hall. Surrey’s Waverley Abbey was used in horror flick 28 Days Later.
Steve Carell is up for best actor in Foxcatcher, a film that is based on the story of multimillionaire John du Pont, a member of the wealthy chemical company family and a paranoid schizophrenic. Du Pont murdered Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz in 1996 at his Foxcatcher Farm estate outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The film, which has already made its mark at the Cannes Film Festival and Golden Globes, was mainly shot in Pennsylvania – though some scenes went outside the state. For example, the Foxcatcher mansion which acts as the focal point of the story was torn down in 2013. So the filmmakers used Morven Park, a historic estate in Leesburg, Virginia with a similar facade for exterior filming. For Foxcatcher mansion interiors, the production used a mansion in Sewickley Heights, Pennsylvania.
Filming also took place in the Pennsylvania communities of Rector, McKeesport, White Oak and Connoquenessing. While there was clear storytelling logic to filming in Pennsylvania, it’s also worth noting that the state offers a 25% tax credit, worth around $6m to this production.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Man vs Monkey thriller Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has been shortlisted for a visual effects Oscar, though it’s also interesting in terms of the politics of locations. Although the film is set on the outskirts of San Francisco, only four days of shooting were done in the city to capture key iconic shots.
The rest of the production was split between Louisiana (USA) and British Colombia (Canada). Louisiana’s main appeal is its 30% tax incentive, which has made the state one of the key film production hubs in the US. The film based itself out of the Big Easy Studios, which has since boomed thanks to the incentive. It also found a number of Louisiana-based locations that could be used to create a dystopian San Francisco. One of these was a mothballed power plant on the Mississippi River.
British Colombia also has attractive incentives for film-makers. In this film, the forests around Vancouver played a central role as the home that the Apes had built for themselves. Key British Colombia locations included the Golden Ears Provincial Park.