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Tomb Raider films South Africa as global locations

Tomb Raider

Roar Uthaug’s Tomb Raider movie features Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft and filmed mainly in South Africa, doubling the country for locations around the world.

Production took place in South Africa’s main production hub Cape Town Film Studios and also in adapted warehouse spaces in the region. Location work represented a smaller chunk of the overall production schedule.

The shoot was serviced by Moonlighting Films.

Scenes set aboard a boat called the Endurance were filmed at Cape Town Film Studios in a 60-by-90-metre water tank that was specially built for the Tomb Raider shoot. 

Hout Bay near Cape Town was transformed into a Hong Kong harbour setting. The production team set up floating walkways and restaurants, and imported an advanced Spider Cam from the UK that operates on a system of overhead cables and so gave Uthaug greater flexibility with his shot selections.

Elsewhere, Paarl in the Cape Winelands offered forest visuals and locations suitable for a camp story setting. Here the team also found an old quarry where they built the exterior of a tomb entrance, which in the context of the story is found on a fictional Japanese island.   

“The tomb entrance was an abandoned granite quarry that we came across that I think hadn’t been used for 80 years,” says Gary Freeman, the film’s production designer. “It had great topography [and] it was interesting, but it also had the scars of the granite excavation.  

“If you’re imagining that thousands of years ago someone built a magnificent pagoda underground, you have to think ‘How did they get in there? How did they get out?’ Suddenly the scarring worked in our favour. We made it appear overgrown by covering it in vines and general green detritus.”
 

Tomb Raider


The tomb interiors were built as a set at Atlantic Film Studios in Cape Town, a facility that offers eight stages and back lot space.

“There were many very technical aspects to the production and the water work was complicated and challenging,” says Genevieve Hofmeyr, of Moonlighting Films, in comments to KFTV. 

“We certainly upskilled significantly in most of the creative departments. Building a 60 by 90-metre outdoor water tank in record time was another challenge, as was creating Hong Kong harbour.”

South Africa is one of the southern hemisphere’s major production hubs, with flexible locations and generous filming incentive support. 

BBC dramas are a regular visitor to the country. Ancient-world series Troy: Fall of a City doubled Cape Town for the biblical Middle East and The Last Post used the city as a stand-in for 1960s Yemen.

See KFTV's production guide for more on filming in South Africa.

Images: Warner Bros/MGM/Ilzek Kitshoff/Graham Bartholomew

 



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