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And the Oscar goes to… Andalucía
Some of the film crews who shot in Andalucía walked later along the red carpet in the Oscars ceremony and many of them went up to the stage to pick up the precious gold statuette. Blockbusters like ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ and also Spanish productions like ‘Talk to her’ shot their scenes in Andalucía, whose natural backgrounds were seen, firstly by the members of the Academy who reward the films and later by millions of viewers all over the world.
Steven Spielberg (Director)
“We have looked for a land characterized for being very raw, rocky, with cannons and that kind of landscape. Certainly, Almeria offers all of them. There is nothing like Almeria in the USA”.
Carlo Ponti, producer of ‘Doctor Zhivago’, wanted to shoot in the old USSR, but the government declined his request. After visiting Yugoslavia, Finland and Sweden, he finally decided to shoot most of the film in Spain, because it gathered every need of the production perfectly: trains with steam locomotives, horses, horsemen, many extras, cinematographic studios close to the landscapes… Nevertheless, some scenes were shot in Finland, Canada and Cinecittá Studios in Roma.
‘Talk to her’’s crew arrived at Lucena just a few hours after the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York, on 11 September 2001. The shooting in the Nuestra Señora de Araceli chapel took place on day 12 with an entire crew totally shocked by the news, along with Pedro Almodóvar almost voiceless and terribly saddened by the second anniversary of his mother’s death, which was also on that day.
‘Talk to her’ was not the film selected by the Spanish Film Academy (AACCE) to represent Spain at the Oscars of that year (it preferred ‘Mondays in the Sun’). However, Almodóvar’s movie gained two nominations for the coveted Best Director and Best Original Screenplay awards, the latter of which he won; thus, it can be said that a part of that Oscar went to Córdoba and Andalucía.
Steven Spielberg rejected shooting in la Alhambra because the monument was “too visually familiar for us to attempt to use it as a location supposedly somewhere else”.
During the shooting of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ in Guadix, in the scene where Marcus start running through the streets in Iskenderun, you can see a local, with his hat, his sash and his jacket, that may slip into the shooting. The same character appears in the scene where Sallah and Marcus met and started a fight with two Nazis. The local is among the group of Arabs who gathered around them. The strange thing is that nobody notices him.
Perhaps because it was partly shot in the provinces of Almeria and Granada, ‘Indiana Jones and the last crusade’ is the instalment of the saga with the biggest audience in our country’s cinemas, 4.2 million viewers.
Steven Spielberg and the location team of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ chose the locations to shoot the film from the air, traveling by helicopter throughout the province. In one of the location days, lunchtime was getting closer and the helicopter landed in the parking lot of the “Parador Nacional de Mojácar”, to the amazement of everyone there, who saw the arrival and ate together with the American director and his team.
If ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ presented for the first time the father of the hero, played by Sean Connery, the series ‘The young Indiana Jones’, shot three years later (1991) showed the adolescence of the character, played by Sean Patrick Flannery. Interestingly, this series, aired in Spain by Antena 3 in 1993, was also filmed in the province of Almeria.
In the famous scene of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ in which Sean Connery scares some seagulls to hit a Nazi plane, pigeons, which are less aggressive and easier to domesticate, were used.
During the shooting of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ at Guadix Station, the Cinematography Director, Douglas Slocombe, repeatedly changed some elements of the set to adapt the scene to the sunlight changes.
In the shooting of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ in Almería, every extra of the 175 who took part in the film earned 8,000 pesetas (48 euros) per shooting day. This tax beard the following costs: 5,000 pesetas (30€) appeared as mandatory in the contract, adding other concepts (1,000 pesetas – 6€- as ‘plus for the costume’: to dress in an unusual way; 800 pesetas (4,8€) for playing with the head shaved…).
Throughout his career, Sean Connery returned three times to the beach of Monsul (Almeria), because in this environment scenes of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’, ‘Shalako’ and ‘El viento y el Lion’ were filmed.
The parking of the Hotel Parador in Mojácar (Almería) was used as an airport runway for a plane in some scenes in ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’.
In Carboneras, a village of Almería that has been used as a set for several shootings, you can find Hotel El Dorado, a beautiful place built by the deceased Scottish locator Eddie Fowlie. After the shooting of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, Fowlie, considered as David Lean’s right-hand man, decided to live in Almería and opened this hotel. In the inside, you can find numerous pictures and props from some of the movies he worked in. In addition, the main gate of the hotel was used in the film ‘Nicholas and Alexandra’.
Since the hundreds of extras hired were not sufficiently motivated for the scene in Plaza de España in which they had to acclaim Lawrence of Arabia, the director, David Lean, suggested telling them to applaud him as if he were Charles Dickens. But since nobody knew him, the extras coordinator motivated them by telling them to cheer for him as if he were the bullfighter Antonio Ordóñez. It actually worked.
During the shooting in Nicolás Salmerón Park, the director of the second unit, Noel Howard (the director David Lean had already left the shooting), suffered an accident. The camera crane that captured the arrival of the tramway had to be removed so the latter could pass underneath, but there was not enough time and it was hit by the vehicle. As a consequence of the crash, Howard sustained a severe 6-inch injury on his right thigh.
The shooting in Seville started on 18 December 1961 and went on for three months. It continued in Almería, where the shooting commenced on 21 March 1961 and ended three months and a half later, on 7 July.
During the shooting in Casa Pilatos, a wire got tangled up one of the ancient Roman statues that filled the building from 1516 and the statue lost her head. The Duchess of Medinaceli, owner of the house, minimised the mishap and stated that “it was only Roman”.
‘Lawrence of Arabia’ was the first shooting of a great magnitude that was carried out in Almería. A total of 1,000 extras, 750 horses and 159 camels brought from the Spanish Sahara were involved in the film. The technical crew was comprised of around 400 people, 250 of which were Spanish, and the artistic crew were more than 150 people.
For the complicated scene of the train explosion, shot in the dunes of Cabo de Gata, a 1-mile railway stretch was built, and more than 60 workers prepared the terrain on which such railway was built. Additionally, they built a special road going through Cabo de Gata. The production company bought from the Spanish train network RENFE two full trains from Almería, Alhama and Santa Fe, which were dismantled and taken to the set by lorries. 10 pounds of vertical explosives, in addition to 10 pounds of black gunpowder, were used. The engine driver set the engine at full speed and jumped out of the train seconds before the explosion. The scene was captured by seven cameras and witnessed by TVE and BBC teams, as well as journalists from various countries who had travelled to Almería to report on the event. Before this, the crew had blasted another 14-coach train containing horses and extras playing Turkish riflemen perched on the roofs of the carriages.
Almost as famous as the shooting were the night binges that, nearly every day, involved the leading actors, Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif. Some of these parties lasted up to four days or ended when O’Toole lost consciousness.
In the scene in which General Allenby enters Damascus (Plaza de España in Seville), there were more than 2,000 people, many of which were Romanies who signed up as extras to play Arabs.
During the shooting in the dunes of Cabo de Gata, around 30 horsemen had to cross them riding the corresponding number of sorrel horses. However, while the scene was being shot, the director and the crew witnessed how the horsemen went past the hill and disappeared. They are still waiting for them to come back…
At the Rambla ‘El Cautivo’ in Tabernas, an oasis was built with trees and big palm trees brought from Alicante. This place still exists and, ever since, it has been frequently used by many production companies for outdoor shooting. The constructor of the oasis was the producer Eddie Fowlie, who fell in love with Almería to such a breadth that he settled there for good. Until his death in 2014, Fowlie was the owner of Hotel El Dorado, in Carboneras.
The first day of shooting in Almería, in a pass near Tabernas, a sudden storm caused a flood which nearly destroyed the shooting set, inundated David Lean’s caravan and forced many actors and extras to run uphill.
During the shooting of ‘Patton’, a unit moved to the village of Enix (Almería) to shoot a tank stop in the village square. To take the tanks there it was necessary to wide and rebuild a few bridges.
The producers of ‘Patton’ built a road to access Tabernas’ Castle and during the works a Neolithic and a Medieval villages were discovered.
El rodaje de la secuencia de la batalla de El Guettar, en ‘Patton’, en la Rambla del Búho (Tabernas), duró 4 días y en ella se emplearon 50 tanques, varias piezas de artillería, seis aviones alemanes Heinkels, seis cazas de las Fuerzas Aéreas norteamericanas, unos 2.000 extras con sus respectivos uniformes de uno y otro bando, y numerosos especialistas que fueron rodados por siete cámaras divididas en dos unidades de rodaje.
The shooting of ‘Patton’, in the sequence where the army enters in Messina, required the participation of 21 tanks, some trucks and jeeps, 700 extras, who cheered the troops, and 400 soldiers, who joined the army unit, plus a few Heinkel airplanes that flew over the square and a helicopter.
Several films that have also been shot in Andalucía, despite of getting any Oscar, were at least nominated and obtained an international recognition. For example: ‘Empire of the Sun’ (6 nominations), shot in Trebujena (Cádiz); ‘The Adventures of Baron Münchausen’ (4 nominations) and ‘El Cid’ (3), shot in Almeria; ‘That Obscure Object of Desire’, with two nominations, and ‘Star Wars. The Clone Wars’, with one, both shot in Sevilla.
To shoot the speech pronounced by John Reed in ‘Reds’, which took place in the Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, a special licence had to be required to the current authority so the extras could sing ‘The Internationale’ with no fear of retaliations.