ITV's Tutankhamun filmed South Africa as Egypt
New UK miniseries Tutankhamun doubled South Africa for Egypt to tell the story of archaeologist Howard Carter’s quest to find the pharaoh’s tomb.
Produced by the UK’s ITV Studios, the drama starts in 1905 and follows Carter’s partnership with the eccentric Lord Carnarvon who sponsors the years-long search for what becomes an iconic historical discovery.
South Africa is a hugely popular international filming location and a fitting double for early 20th century Egypt.
“We recreated the Valley of the Kings in a quarry in the desert region in the north of the country, close to the border with Namibia,” said Francis Hopkinson, an executive producer on the show, in comments to Radio Times.
“There was nothing up there so we had to take everything: the crew, the equipment [and] the extras. Normally the risk assessment for a shoot is a page long, but this one ran to about 30 pages and itemised all of the animals you might stumble across.
“And at one point it said ‘If you see this snake, run.’ We had to employ four scorpion wranglers to get rid of all the scorpions.”
The production team contended with searing heat throughout the shoot and while the basic landscape convinced as Egypt, the colour of the sand had to be altered in post-production to match the red tones of the real Valley of the Kings.
“It’s the first time I’ve filmed there and it was a great place to shoot,” said Hopkinson of South Africa as a location. “The only problem is it’s so popular. There were at least two movies filming in Cape Town while we were there and two big American series.”
Contemporary British adventure drama Hooten and The Lady also recently filmed in South Africa and doubled the country for international locations ranging from the Caribbean to Russia.
South Africa is looking to boost its appeal to the major Hollywood studios as well, and a delegation visited California last week to discuss production needs.
The South African government is working on an overhaul of the country’s filming incentive support, according to a report in Cape Business News. Plans include relaxing minimum shoot day requirements so that TV pilots can qualify more easily for incentive support.