All the locations that stood in for London, Paris, New York, Yemen and beyond
From release: Whether it’s David Niven in 1956, Steve Coogan in 2004 or even Jules Verne’s 1872 novel, Around the World in 80 Days is a familiar favourite, ideal for Sunday teatime. The BBC’s new eight-part adaptation, led by Life on Mars creator Ashley Pharaoh, gives this Victorian tale a 21st-century flavour, starting with a more diverse cast – a Black Passepartout in the shape of French star Ibrahim Koma and a female Fix played by German actress Leonie Benesch, alongside a very human Phileas Fogg, played by David Tennant.
What hasn’t changed, though, is the scenery – an essential part of the tale, whatever the era or, indeed, the budget. In this case, the challenging range of locations needed was sourced from just two countries, South Africa and Romania. Clever studio work and careful use of palettes, ranging from a mustardy London and blue Paris to green for Italy and white for Yemen, helped, but the rest was making use of two hugely versatile landscapes.
Romania’s chief role was to provide Victorian city settings, which included London, Paris, Liverpool and New York. The capital Bucharest gave the production both locations and studio sets, including a backlot with a readymade New York, and the city’s French-influenced architecture in the Old Town made Episode 1’s extended sequence in Paris relatively easy. London was more of a challenge, though. ‘We just couldn’t find our London streets anywhere,’ says director Steve Barron. ‘Finally, after much searching, we found this long back street of a university that worked well to depict Pall Mall.’
Romania also stood in for Italy in Episode 2. Brindisi was created on a studio backlot, but the site of our heroes’ balloon crash was in a field near Mogosaoaia, about 10 miles north of Bucharest. The thrilling sequence of the train crossing, meanwhile, was filmed on a viaduct near the tiny village of Homoraciu, about 70 miles from the capital.
The production’s mix-and-match approach also meant the Wild West scenes of Episode 7 were filmed not in the heat of South Africa but on a set in Bucharest. Most cunning of all, though, was the use of the train station in Ploiesti, a city north of Bucharest that grew rich through oil production in the 19th century and has monumental buildings to prove it. The statuesque building appears twice in the series, first in Episode 1 as the site of Fogg’s arrival in Paris, and then in Episode 8 as New York’s Grand Central Station.
South Africa’s main contribution was the sun, sea and sand of the series. ‘You get a huge variety of landscapes and options,’ explains director Steve Barron. ‘We flew to South Africa to inspect the studios and backlots and found we could shoot a large portion of the series.’ The production based itself in Cape Town, using both the studios there and the range of locations a day trip away from the city.
For Episode 3’s visit to Yemen, the production created the city of Al Hudaydah in Cape Town Film Studios, building the town square on an existing set. ‘We were fortunate enough that there was a lot of architecture already in place that we could use and build onto,’ says production designer Sebastian Krawinkel. ‘The biggest challenge was the mosque, which we added onto the square.’ Here, the colour shade was golden, extended even to the walls of the hotel rooms. The addition of real animal dung gave the finishing touches: ‘I like to give the actors a genuine feeling of being in the place,’ comments Krawinkel.
For Episode 4’s Indian hillside village, the team performed another magical conversion, this time at Oaklands in Cape Town, dressing a Biblical-themed set to suit their purposes, but for other scenes they headed out into the countryside.
The deserts seen in Episode 3, where our heroes head into Arabia, were filmed outside Cape Town in three locations. They used the Atlantis dunes, situated on the west coast, for the majority of the sequence, adding scenes at Theewaterskloof and Grabouw to the southeast. The oasis scene was then created in a brickfield, filling in the pit where clay had been dug out with water.
Also south of Cape Town is Episode 6’s desert island, filmed at Kogel Bay Beach – though again this was created with a little camera trickery. ‘We managed to tie together a little beach with beautiful boulders alongside another beach with a beautiful cave to create the island,’ explains location manager Katy Fyfe. ‘We just had to be very careful about the tides. The cave was only accessible on a low tide so we had to watch that in conjunction with the moon to avoid the spring highs and lows.’
For Episode 5’s journey to Hong Kong, street scenes were created back in Cape Town Film Studios, but the garden party at Government House was filmed at De Grendel, a manor house on the northeastern outskirts of the city. Built in 1898 in the Cape-Dutch style, and now a noted winery, it’s situated on Tygerberg hill, giving amazing views of Table Mountain.
Another of the city’s great colonial buildings was employed for the first scenes of the series. For The Reform Club, where Fogg makes his bet, filming took place at the City Hall on Darling Street. This 1905 construction is now used for exhibitions and concerts rather than official business, but it’s famed as the site where Nelson Mandela gave his first speech after his release in 1990. It was built, in true colonial style, from imported Bath stone so it gave the production all the Victorian English atmosphere needed.
info& photos source: https://www.cntraveller.com/