SA’s most Hollywood-worthy film locations
Still get a kick out of seeing your hometown on the big screen? South Africa’s stunning scenery makes it the perfect location for international film shoots.
Claire Danes, hot on the trail of a terror suspect on the streets of Cape Town CBD-turned-Islamabad in Homeland. Hulk and Iron Man, tearing up the Johannesburg CBD in 2015’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, on the run in Cape Town in 2012’s Safe House. Leonardo DiCaprio, smuggling diamonds in Port Edward in 2006’s Blood Diamond. The list goes on – of movies, TV shows and spectacular advertisements shot in and around South Africa.
‘The big thing that South Africa offers is the diversity of great locations,’ says Morten Nielsen of Locations 4 Africa . ‘You can go from ocean to mountains to dunes to jungles, all within 45 minutes. There aren’t many other places in the world where you can do that, which is why we’re such a hot destination for film shoots.’ He should know: Nielsen’s IMDb page includes location manager credits on Hollywood blockbusters like Maze Runner: The Death Cure, The Mummy (starring Tom Cruise), Mad Max: Fury Road, Safe House and Blood Diamond.
Not far from Grabouw, the 2009 remake of horror classic The Last House on the Left was filmed in the Helderberg Nature Reserve, with its perfectly creepy, remote forest location. Meanwhile, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Mummy were both shot in Namibia’s spectacular desert terrain, which make for striking filming locations, as well as long, scenic road trips. ‘Southern Africa has some great roads,’ Nielsen agrees. ‘We’ve done some amazing car shoots on mountain passes like Chapman’s Peak, or up in Grabouw on the Rockview Dam road.’
Desolate African beauty
When 2009’s Oscar-nominated sci-fi District 9 was shot and set in South Africa, director Neill Blomkamp specifically chose Chiawelo in Soweto to capture the bleak atmosphere of the dystopian alien camp. He also shot in Joburg in the winter, because – as he put it – the city ‘actually looks like Chernobyl’, a ‘nuclear apocalyptic wasteland’. It was much the same for 2017’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, parts of which were set in a barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland – shot in the Karoo!
Local urban architecture
‘For me, it’s all about the beauty shots,’ says Nielsen. ‘That’s what I like to get involved in. My favourite locations are places like the Lourensford farms in Grabouw; the CTICC in Cape Town, which is quite an eye-catcher; and Cape Town City Hall, with its Victorian-style architecture and its great interior rooms and passageways. The unfinished highway in the Cape Town city centre is obviously also a winner, and that gets shot a lot!’
Photographs: Damien du Toit, Shutterstock, Getty Images