Chris Hemsworth war film shoots in New Mexico

Chris Hemsworth’s war movie 12 Strong filmed on location in New Mexico, doubling the south-west US state for Afghanistan.

Chris Hemsworth’s war movie 12 Strong filmed on location in New Mexico, doubling the south-west US state for Afghanistan.

The film is based on the true story of a US Special Forces team that was sent to Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and ended up supporting a regional Northern Alliance warlord by fighting the Taliban on horseback.

Chris Hemsworth war film shoots in New Mexico
12 Strong

Production on the movie took place in and around Albuquerque, and at a military testing site south of the city known as the White Sands Missile Range.

Collectively these locations stood in for the US, an American forward operating base in Uzbekistan, and for Afghanistan itself.

“We filmed interior military locations at Central New Mexico campus (a local community college),” said S Todd Christensen, the film’s location manager, in comments to KFTV.

“There were also some amazing caves in some mountains south of Alamogordo (in the same area) that played for the Afghan caves for the Northern Alliance. Laguna Pueblo village played for an Afghan village they all marched through.

“The final battle of the movie in the Tiangi Gap in Afghanistan had a particular look – a dry river bed and road through it. We found this at White Sands Missile Range. We found a canyon – Thurgood Canyon – that fit the bill. Our art department worked on that area for six weeks cutting out foliage and putting in Russian and American tanks as part of the battle scenes.”

The production team secured approval from the US government’s Department of Defence (DOD) to film on the land.

“White Sands Missile Range is a big area – 120 miles by 60 miles – with a few entrances. Everyone needed a background check and we were monitored at all times. Given the DOD approval and the story we were telling, the military was more than accommodating.

“Everyone assigned to us to clear areas to monitor our work and personnel was amazing and they also enjoyed the prep and filming experience.

12 Strong

“From the head of the base to the general and personnel they gave us top priority for our filming. With their help and the time of the year we were able to come in and get all first- and second-unit work done over a two-week period.

“The hotels were 75 minutes from the location. We also had to house 60 horses and all of our explosives. We received the best possible collaboration from military personnel.”

New Mexico previously doubled for Afghanistan in Peter Berg’s war movie Lone Survivor, which was also based on a true military story. Having a good relationship with the armed forces can be extremely valuable for producers looking to access army resources and can also help make locations viable that might not be otherwise.

Iraq-set TV drama The Long Road Home recently filmed on location in Texas, a part of the US that usually has limited appeal for larger-scale television productions owing to limited incentive support. In this instance, producers were able to build a set of a Baghdad suburb on the grounds of the military base that was home to the soldiers whose story the production was telling.

See KFTV's production guide for more on filming in New Mexico.

Images: David James/Warner Bros

Chris Hemsworth war film shoots in New Mexico
12 Strong

Chris Hemsworth’s war movie 12 Strong filmed on location in New Mexico, doubling the south-west US state for Afghanistan.

The film is based on the true story of a US Special Forces team that was sent to Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and ended up supporting a regional Northern Alliance warlord by fighting the Taliban on horseback.

Production on the movie took place in and around Albuquerque, and at a military testing site south of the city known as the White Sands Missile Range.

Collectively these locations stood in for the US, an American forward operating base in Uzbekistan, and for Afghanistan itself.

“We filmed interior military locations at Central New Mexico campus (a local community college),” said S Todd Christensen, the film’s location manager, in comments to KFTV.

“There were also some amazing caves in some mountains south of Alamogordo (in the same area) that played for the Afghan caves for the Northern Alliance. Laguna Pueblo village played for an Afghan village they all marched through.

“The final battle of the movie in the Tiangi Gap in Afghanistan had a particular look – a dry river bed and road through it. We found this at White Sands Missile Range. We found a canyon – Thurgood Canyon – that fit the bill. Our art department worked on that area for six weeks cutting out foliage and putting in Russian and American tanks as part of the battle scenes.”

The production team secured approval from the US government’s Department of Defence (DOD) to film on the land.

“White Sands Missile Range is a big area – 120 miles by 60 miles – with a few entrances. Everyone needed a background check and we were monitored at all times. Given the DOD approval and the story we were telling, the military was more than accommodating.

“Everyone assigned to us to clear areas to monitor our work and personnel was amazing and they also enjoyed the prep and filming experience.

12 Strong

“From the head of the base to the general and personnel they gave us top priority for our filming. With their help and the time of the year we were able to come in and get all first- and second-unit work done over a two-week period.

“The hotels were 75 minutes from the location. We also had to house 60 horses and all of our explosives. We received the best possible collaboration from military personnel.”

New Mexico previously doubled for Afghanistan in Peter Berg’s war movie Lone Survivor, which was also based on a true military story. Having a good relationship with the armed forces can be extremely valuable for producers looking to access army resources and can also help make locations viable that might not be otherwise.

Iraq-set TV drama The Long Road Home recently filmed on location in Texas, a part of the US that usually has limited appeal for larger-scale television productions owing to limited incentive support. In this instance, producers were able to build a set of a Baghdad suburb on the grounds of the military base that was home to the soldiers whose story the production was telling.

See KFTV's production guide for more on filming in New Mexico.

Images: David James/Warner Bros

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