Tour the Movies
Everyone likes a good film. Box office figures for Love Actually suggest that loads of people like a bad film, too. But do you ever wonder where your favourite movies are shot? Apparently, I'm informed that directors other than George Lucas actually use real-world locations rather than CGI and green screen. Fancy that!
1. Robin Hood - England
Robin Hood is the film everyone’s ta… no wait, not that one.
That’s better. Robin Hood is an ingrained British legend and part of our cultural heritage, so the current film incarnation of our favourite green English hero is played by an Australian putting on some kind of strange Irish accent. Naturally.
The film was originally to be titled “Nottingham” before Ridley Scott decided to give it the more accurate title “Basically Gladiator in a Forest”, which was then switched again to “Robin Hood”. As an aside, the writers received a seven-figure payment for their script, which Ridley Scott completely rewrote anyway, which makes me wonder why I’m spending time writing this.
Putting the movie’s inherent flaws aside, we can’t deny the fact that it’s well-shot and England is portrayed marvellously throughout. The latest Robin Hood isn’t filmed anywhere near Nottingham of course, rather the countryside and forests spanning the home counties (with a fair chunk filmed in Wales). If we get anything from this instalment of Robin Hood, it’s a reminder that the British Isles is a profoundly beautiful place, and we kinda need that occasionally as we bitch and whine about politics and the weather.
You may need some kind of rocket horse to get around the countryside efficiently - at the end of the film, Robin Hood manages to ride from Sherwood via the Vale of the White Horse (well actually a mash up of the white horse and Dovedale) to Freshwater Bay in Wales (posing as Dover Beach) within two days. Even if he had access to Motorways, which I’m pretty sure he didn’t, that’s over 260 miles of hardcore riding.
2. Motorcycle Diaries - Peru
Che Guevara divides people pretty much down the middle. Either you think he was a freedom fighter and liberator of the oppressed, or you think he was a rhetoric-spewing dictator in his own right. I guess a third category exists for media students who don’t know who he is yet own t-shirts with his face on it.
Whichever way you slice it, The Motorcycle Diaries is a must-read travelogue and the film was pretty nifty, too - Machu Picchu features with prominence in both, leaving a profound impression on the young Guevara as he formulates his plans for revolution.
Whilst not everyone who visits this Incan site in all its glory is left wanting to stage a Marxist coup, its complex beauty is never lost on the multitude of travel junkies visiting it every year. Hiking the trail is bloody hard work (we’re talking steep climbs with all of your stuff on your back) but is more than worth it, to such an extent that it should be close to the top of any adventurer’s to-do list.
“Isn’t it a bit cliché?” I can hear you ask. Yes and no - yes, but for very good reason (it‘s phenomenal), and no because steps have been taken in recent years to protect it from becoming a cheesy tourist trap. Other than a few hundred years ago, now has never been a better time to visit Machu Picchu and possibly hatch a plot to overthrow the establishment while you‘re at it.
And would you look at that? We happen to offer the best Machu Picchu tour of them all, so click on over there to read more about this awesome World Heritage Site.
3. Braveheart - Scotland (kinda.)
“Frreeeeedooooom!” etc. etc.
Somewhat counter-intuitively, the majority of Braveheart was actually filmed in Ireland, particularly the exterior castle shots and battle scenes. This was mainly done to take advantage of Ireland’s tax breaks for filming, but all the gorgeous mountain scenery you see in the film is unmistakeably Scottish.
Notable Braveheart locations that I can pin-point in Scotland are the site of the set village where Wallace grows up, which is near the car park at the foot of Ben Nevis, and the mountain ridge he roams with his men while on the warpath (this is a spectacular, unbroken route connecting Loch Leven with Glen Nevis). The latter path covers ten mountains, and if you’re hardcore enough we reckon you could manage it in a day.
If it wasn’t for the perpetual lousy weather, Scotland’s beauty is pretty much on par with that of New Zealand and certainly has a bit more gravitas than the countryside in south UK. In saying that, it’s very easy to put the bad weather to one side and still have a great outdoorsy break - in a way the glens probably wouldn’t look right if it wasn’t tipping down (and the rain does stop eventually, otherwise how would the Scottish know that summer’s over? Ho ho.)
Personally, I love camping in Scotland in a tent which I may have constructed completely backwards but there is a multitude of independently owned, lovely B&Bs dotted around, usually owned by super-friendly couples who like to lavish you with hospitality.
As always, we have a hand-picked selection of Scottish holidays to help you take advantage of all the above covering a large range of activities and locations.
Okay enough of that.
4. Brokeback Mountain - The Canadian Rockies
Brokeback Mountain - a film that got everyone’s knickers in a twist, especially the knickers worn by dudes when their girlfriends weren’t around. These same dudes decided to throw a hissy fit when a mainstream film contained scenes of, shock horror, two guys going at it. Oh no!
The thing that irritates me about Brokeback Mountain is that the massive controversy created by it almost eclipsed the film itself. The acting prowess displayed by the late, great Heath Ledger and… er, Donnie Darko, or whatever that guy’s name is, was nothing short of brilliant.
The other thing about Brokeback which is manifestly brilliant is the cinematography. The story is set in Wyoming, but all filming was carried out in the Canadian Rockies - an obvious choice, given the sweeping and grandiose mountain panoramas. I mean, it’s just a classic example of how awe inspiring our planet can be, especially given its serene remoteness from modern civilisation. For the record I’m completely straight, but let’s just say if I was camping with Heath Ledger (he was a good looking guy, anyone can see that) in this kind of environment, the elements would probably fill me with so much love that I would probably… y’know, try it out. But only if he had that grungy look he had going on from “A Knight’s Tale”…
… Hang on, where the hell is this going? Jesus. Sorry.
Anyway, Brokeback Mountain is very closely based on a story by Annie Proulx, an extraordinary writer who has a gift for nailing individual characters, communities and their environments in one neat package and tied up in a succinct prose-bow. Brokeback Mountain is a killer example, but she also wrote The Shipping News… a phenomenal book and an okay-ish film, but the unheralded and desolate beauty of Newfoundland is captured in both.
5) Avatar - Hunan, China
If I’d discovered this 3,544ft rock phenomenon in China, I’d probably be moved to make a multi-million fantasy epic too (I’d make sure the plot wasn’t as thin as tracing paper, though).
Looking like a CGI creation all on its own, the Southern Sky Column stands proudly in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and became the basis for Pandora, the world portrayed in James Cameron’s drawn-out, eye candy yawn-a-thon. I mean, film.
Avatar is the biggest ever selling film in China, and as a result the National Park is doing roaring trade - so much so, authorities have renamed the massive Southern Sky Column to Avatar Hallelujah Mountain. The entire park is a jaw-dropping spectacle, so even without Avatar’s added publicity boost it’s little wonder why tourists flock to it in search for a taste of paradise. What’s more, you don’t have to wear silly glasses to see it in 3D.
Want to join the fight to save a race of indigenous blue people? Check out our featured tour of Pandora and/or China here. It actually covers the Tibetan Plateau rather than the Hunon region, but if cycling the otherworldly mountains of Tibet doesn’t impress you then maybe you should go watch Titanic again and come back when your standards are suitably lowered :P
Any great film locations you feel we should cover? Be sure to leave a comment and with your help we might be able to drag this topic out even further than we already have. Good times!
Zeke Iddon is a staff writer for Tourdust. He also writes for a load of other way less interesting people, but don't tell them he said that.