Following the success of Millennium Films’ The Hitman’s Bodyguard, the producers of its sequel, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, were looking at viable location options for the action flick and Croatia was one of the top considerations.
Matt O’Toole and Paul Ritchie, producers of the sequel approached Igor A. Nola at local production service providers MP Film Productions to make a pitch presenting Croatian locations, as well as alternatives from Italy, Slovenia and Serbia (where MP Film also work).
They were impressed with what he showed them and so scouting missions with the director, Patrick Hughes, Russell de Rozario (production designer), Ritchie, O’Toole and Terry Stacey, the DoP, followed.
“We travelled from the North to very south of Croatia, and the islands of Vis, Bisevo and Hvar,” recalls Nola. “We even headed over to Slovenia and the Trieste region in Italy. They were weighing up the best possible locations for the script, as well as factoring in the budget and of course a tax incentive scheme. Plus, they wanted a large pool of film professionals.”
Croatia ticked all the boxes, with its diversity of locations, quality services, crew, competitive costs and the appealing potential 30% financial incentive. So, they decided to shoot in several places across the country, partly doubling it for Italy, but also shooting for Croatia, including in Rovinj on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula. The old town stands on a headland with houses tightly crowded down to the seafront.
“We pretty much shut the entire town down,” explains O’Toole. “The local business owners and authorities were a dream to deal with and helped us achieve everything we needed to, including some hefty action sequences.”
The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard filming in Rovinj
Other locations included the capital Zagreb, the city of Karlovac in central Croatia, and Pisarovina, in the county of Zagreb, for a total of 11 days. As well as the port city of Rijeka for seven days (2nd unit only), Motovun and River Mirna Valley for 10 days, the Lim Channel for five days, Buje for two days, the island Bisevo and Vodnjan for a day.
[L to R], Rijeka, Vodnjan, Karlovac, Motovun, Lim Channel
In total there were 489 professional crew members and 621 extras used across these locations. Most of them were locals and they left a strong impression on the producers, some of whom even travelled to the UK to be involved in the shoot in London.
“The crew are fantastic, no nonsense and talented technicians and nothing seemed to be a problem - there were only solutions,” says O’Toole.
Inevitably, with the film being an action-packed Hollywood movie, there were challenges and a lot of safety and security planning was needed in advance, which is why the production team started early with local prep.
“We applied for permission well in advance with each region, city, local community, road authority, police etc because we had to close traffic on a bridge and in various towns for stunt driving scenes, and even managed to close down a state road for five consecutive working days – two weeks in a row,” explain Nola. “The local authorities were always very supportive, and we managed to secure detours for local traffic, and agreed with local community that in case of an emergency, e.g. ambulance or fireman needing to pass through the location, we always had a spare road lane open for them to quickly pass by. As a result the whole community and local authorities were impressed by our production being so organised and had no comments on road closures.”
Most of the crew and equipment used were local, although some were brought in from Nu Boyana studios in Sofia, as they were part of the Hitman’s Bodyguard team, and so were used for continuity purposes. Some of the filming was also done in Sofia and London, where the first film was shot.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard follows four years after the events of the first film with bodyguard Michael Bryce (Reynolds) continuing his friendship with assassin Darius Kincaid (Jackson) as they embark on a new adventure to help save Darius’s wife, Sonia (Hayek) from new threats. The film is due to be released by Lionsgate on 20 August 2021.