All the World’s a Stage

From the spectacular scenery of New Zealand to the pulsing centre of New York, movies can transport us almost anywhere without leaving our seats. Here, we take a tour around some of the most iconic locations seen on the silver screen Words

by Christian Rose-Day

Have you ever sat motionless during a movie, engrossed by the sheer majesty of cinema, engaged by the inspirational acting, mesmerised by the heart-pounding action, spellbound by the amazing sets and locations? Those far, far away galaxies; those urban streets filled with epic car chases; those gladiatorial battles in dusty deserts; those epic, transcontinental journeys through mother nature’s lush creations. It’s possible to travel the world without ever leaving the comfort of your armchair.

During the latter part of the 20th century the rise of cinema and its popular sister, television, helped to enlighten us about the world we live in. They showed us distant lands we were barely aware of. The world of cinema is dotted with countless awe-inspiring landscapes and, for every iconic scene in a movie, there’s an equally iconic travel destination somewhere on earth.

A location often plays such a significant part in a movie that it almost claims the starring role. Where would The Godfather be without New York? Could the City Of God be the city of God without Rio de Janeiro? And where would Lawrence Of Arabia be without the desert landscape of Jordan’s Wadi Rum?

You’ve seen the movie, now visit the location… Often, these brief yet impressive scenes of earth, as seen through the lens of a movie, can become tremendously beneficial for the local tourist economy. Look how well New Zealand fared after being portrayed as Middle Earth in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. See also Cambodia following Lara Croft’s trek to the religious monument, Angkor Wat; or the white sands of India’s west coast after Matt Damon ventured there in The Bourne Supremacy (although, much like James Bond, Jason Bourne tends to pop up almost anywhere); and Australia’s tourism will no doubt fare very well from the release of Baz Luhrman’s recent epic.

But not all movies originate from the destination that they represent. Casablanca, for example, was filmed in the US, not Africa. Movie producers play tricks on the viewers’ eye. Locations get disfigured and transformed.This trend is particularly prevalent in war-related movies. Ben Stiller’s Vietnam in Tropic Thunder was actually Hawaii. Francis Ford Coppola’s vision of Vietnam for
Apocalypse Now was the island of Luzon in the Philippines. And the soldiers in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket were not patrolling war-torn Vietnam, but a disused gas works in Beckton, East London. Bridge Over The River Kwai, surely filmed in Thailand? No, that was Sri Lanka. And ‘that’ opening scene in Saving Private Ryan wasn’t France at all, but Curracloe Beach in the Republic of Ireland.


‘The most popular locations are exteriors. It’s difficult to fake exteriors in a studio,’ says Kieran Hennessy, a manager for Irish Film Locations, whose recent short film, New Boy, at the time of going to press, had been nominated for an Oscar. Indeed, a cursory investigation through the substantial database of movie information, IMDB, provides enough evidence of those city exteriors that play the most regular roles at the movies. For example, of the destinations on the Royal Jordanian route, it’s easy to see the cinematic importance of certain cities. While Bangkok, Delhi, Hong Kong, Chicago and Paris all fare well, the top two destinations for movie shoots are London and New York.

London’s historically rich streets and buildings have played host to a variety of movies. From the lovesick comedies of Sliding Doors, Notting Hill and Love Actually to the sobering drama of The Da Vinci Code, V For Vendetta and 28 Days Later. One of London’s most popular settings is the Old Royal Naval College on the banks of the Thames. This collection of impressive structures has, in the past,welcomed The Mummy, Patriot Games, The Golden Compass and Four Weddings And A Funeral, to name but a few.

New York, on the other hand, basks in the realms of fantasy. Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Ghostbusters and King Kongwere all staged in Manhattan, along with almost any action movie starring Will Smith (I Am Legend, Hancock, Men In Black, Independence Day). The iconic heart of New York is undoubtedly Times Square, owing as much to its pulsing bright neon and giant media screens as it does to a history steeped in symbolism, glamour and celebration. Literally hundreds of movies have been shot in the square, including Shaft, Taxi Driver and Vanilla Sky (who can forget the image of Tom Cruise running through the deserted city at dawn?). Indeed, as Mark ‘Scoutman’ McKennon of The Location Station in New York states, ‘Few people are not amazed by [Times Square], even if they’ve seen it a thousand times.’

Link to full Article with Images:  All the World’s a Stage by Christian Rose-Day