Travel Photo Thursday: Shooting “On Location”

February 23, 2012

in Oscars Week 2012, Travel Photo Thursday

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(“Oscars Week” continues today with photos shot at European movie locations.)

Royal London

# 2 - Buckingham PalaceSo many movies have been filmed in London that picking just a few to highlight that city’s importance as a cinematic location is difficult.  But since I’ve chosen this shot taken in 2006 of one of London’s icons, Buckingham Palace, here are three recent flicks about its royal residents, listed in the order in which the lead actor’s character ascended to the British throne:  The Young Victoria, The King’s Speech, and The Queen.

Divided Berlin

Eastside Gallery 4 IMG_2547On August 13, 1961, just over fifty years ago and sixteen years after the end of World War II, the Berlin Wall began to rise.  When finished, it became the most visible symbol of the Iron Curtain dividing the West from the Russian-dominated East.   For the next thirty-eight years, the Wall kept East Germans from safely passing from one side of Berlin to the other.

Finally, in November of 1989, the Berlin Wall, and the Communist government of East Germany, began to figuratively topple, ultimately causing a “domino-effect” as democracy freed the Soviet Bloc countries of Eastern Europe.  Today, it’s easy to visit East Berlin as a tourist.  You no longer have to get clearance to enter the Soviet Sector at “Checkpoint Charlie,” which has become a popular museum.  And the Wall is now a large outdoor mural, called the East Side Gallery, decorated by artists from around the world.

On the 50th anniversary of the Wall’s inception, Time ran its story on the “Top 10 Berlin Wall Movies.”  Three of those films in which the Berlin Wall figures prominently are The Lives of Others, The Tunnel, and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

Is it Prague or Is it Zurich?

One of the blessings bestowed on the Czech Republic’s capital city of Prague is that unlike Berlin, it was not bombed into oblivion during World War II.  The Czech Film Commissions says that Prague is:

“one of Europe’s most picturesque cities. Prague’s extensive historical centre is a UNESCO heritage site, a time capsule of every architectural style dating back to the Middle Ages. The city’s historic look has allowed the city to stand in for dozens of other locations and time periods, from medieval Europe to modern America.

Prague Kampa ParkSo, while in The Bourne Identity Matt Damon’s character is rousted by a couple of Swiss cops in what is supposed to be a “Zurich” park, the scene was actually filmed in Prague.  And when Bourne dangles $20,000 in front of Marie as an enticement to drive transport him to Paris, you see the two of them driving through the snowy countryside near Prague, not the Swiss city where the movie leads you to believe they met.

“Prague Castle,” not a single edifice, but a complex of buildings high on a hill overlooking the Vltava River, is one of the city’s “hot” tourist attractions.  Two photos featured in last Prague Castle Gate Sentries IMG_1670week’s “Travel Photo Thursday:  We’re Going to the Chapel” were taken there.

The 1996 Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible movie begins in Prague. And part of Cruise’s 2011 film, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, was shot at Prague Castle.

From this 2009 photo which I took of the castle’s Matthias Gate, you can see why it was a “body double” for Buckingham Palace in the Jackie Chan film, Shanghai Knights.  That gate also served as an “impostor” of the entrance to Crown Prince Leopold’s Vienna palace in the movie The Illusionist.

“Crossing” Normandy

D Day Invasion Photo 2The beaches of Normandy ran red with blood when Allied forces staged the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944.  It was here that the the tide of World War II turned against the Germans, ultimately sweeping them hundreds of miles eastward from the sea, back to their own capital city, Berlin.

D-Day has been memorialized in many films starring big box office names, such as  The Longest Day (1962; John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, and Rod Steiger), The Big Red One (1980; Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill and Robert Carradine), and Saving Private Ryan (1998; Tom Hanks and Matt Damon).  Today, the locations in Normandy where those films were shot draw throngs of tourists who wish to see where real acts of heroism took place nearly seventy years ago.

Military cemeteries, where soldiers who died during U.S. Military Cemetery Normandy IMG_2381World War II rest in peace, dot the Normandy countryside.  On those hallowed grounds, one can quietly reflect on the insanity of war, and honor those from both sides who lay down their lives for their fellow countrymen.  I took this photo in September of 2006 at the American Cemetery, just above Omaha Beach.  The white crosses marching away to the horizon serve as a stark reminder that tens of thousands of Americans servicemen fell during the battle for Europe over a half-century ago.

(Visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more of this week’s Travel Photo Thursday shots. Tomorrow on “Oscars Week”  -  iPhone/iPad Apps for “Watching The Oscars on the Road.” )

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Sabrina
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February 23, 2012 at 10:03 AM

How fun! I love when foreign places show up in movies, but I have a terrible memory about which movies show which places. Great summary!
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InsideJourneys
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February 23, 2012 at 12:51 PM

What a wonderful tribute to the movies, Dick! You’ve shared some really cool tidbits of information. Next time I watch The Bourne Identity and Mission Impossible, I’ll know exactly where they are. Thanks!

InsideJourneys
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February 23, 2012 at 1:14 PM

What a lovely tribute to the movies, Dick. I love watching and recognizing a place I’ve been. That Matthias Gate sure does look like the one at Buckingham Palace. Next time I watch The Bourne Identity and Mission Impossible, I’ll be thinking Prague and smiling. Some good tidbits of information here. Thanks!
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Matt
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February 23, 2012 at 4:07 PM

Two things I regret not seeing when I went to Europe many years ago. Omaha Beach and its memorials and the Berlin Wall. One’s gone and was a testament to the cowardice of evil, the other is still there, a timeless testament to bravery in the face of evil.
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Cathy Sweeney
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February 23, 2012 at 7:57 PM

What a great selection of movies. I love seeing film locations when I travel and watching movies filmed in places I’ve been. Interesting about the Bourne Zurich scenes being filmed in Prague. That always kind of disappoints me, however, when the location isn’t what it seems to be. Once out of the studio, it would be nice if they were filmed in the real place. But, of course, I’m not in the movie biz…
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Mary
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February 23, 2012 at 10:08 PM

Thanks for sharing all this interesting information! I admit I don’t usually pay attention to the inconsistencies in movie locations unless it’s pretty blatant. Beautiful shots!
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Nancie
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February 24, 2012 at 4:27 AM

Great post and shots. I love the last shot of the cemetery.
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Michael Figueiredo
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February 24, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Very informative! I think it’s interesting how Prague doubles for so many other places in film.
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Dick Jordan February 28, 2012 at 3:07 PM

Thanks for your comment, Michael. I assume that the cost of filming in Prague is lower than in a city like Paris, so as long as one doesn’t need a sweeping city view that includes a well-known landmark (like the Eiffel Tower), Prague will do fine as a stand-in.

Dick Jordan February 28, 2012 at 3:08 PM

Thanks much, Nancie. I was “on the road” from last Thursday through yesterday and didn’t have a chance to review and comment on the other “Travel Photo Thursday” contributions for last week.

Dick Jordan February 28, 2012 at 3:19 PM

Thanks, Mary. Unless you live in or often visit a city in which a movie’s story is set, odds are that you won’t be able to tell that it wasn’t actually filmed there, or even if the shooting takes place in the city where the story is set, something isn’t quite right. And smart filmmakers often use tight shots that don’t show landmarks that would allow the audience to know that one city is standing in for another.

The Steve McQueen movie, “Bullit,” features one of Hollywood’s best-known “car chase” scenes. However, even though the scene gives the impression that the cars are zooming through contiguous parts of San Francisco and the surrounding urban communities, it actually is shot at several unconnected locations.

Dick Jordan February 28, 2012 at 3:28 PM

Thanks for your comment, Cathy.

My guess is that its much cheaper to shoot on location on Prague than in Zurich. Unless a filmmaker needed to have a landmark well-known to the movie-going public in a scene, any city with “Generic European Architecture” would do fine. And even if one needed one scene with the Eiffel Tower it in, you could probably should the rest of the exterior shots in a city other than Paris. Interior scenes, of course, are often shot on a studio sound stage and the audience never realizes it wasn’t filmed inside a building whose front door the actor just walked through in the preceding scene.

Dick Jordan February 28, 2012 at 3:32 PM

Thanks for your comment, Matt.

Although the Berlin Wall no longer exists in the form that made it famous, bits and pieces, like the Eastside Gallery remain.

Dick Jordan February 28, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Thanks for your comment.

Filmmaking is all about creating illusions that seem real. Unless you had visited Prague Castle and Buckingham Palace, and maybe even if you had, you might not have realized that the Matthias Gate had a “stand-in” role.

Dick Jordan February 28, 2012 at 3:39 PM

Thanks, Sabrina. Filmmakers, of course, have lots of fun making us think were are seeing the story play out in a real location when, in fact, a “stand-in” has been used, probably because it saved location costs.

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