TF Top (Double Oh) 7……Hotels Featured In James Bond Movies

Hotels have played a major part in the James Bond series of films over the last 50+ years with the secret agent going around the world on his many missions whilst splurging on many a fine hotel. Now, everyone’s favourite secret agent hasn’t always stayed in the accommodation listed here but they have all featured in the movies at some point. The cost of spending a night in one of these hotels varies quite a bit and one needs to be seriously minted to afford some of these places! With a slight twist on the usual TF Top 5/10…… series’ we bring you the top (double oh) seven (see what we’ve done there!) places to stay for one to follow in the footsteps of James Bond.

1. Hotel New Otani (from $217 per night), 4-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 102-0094, Tokyo, JAPAN.

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You Only Live Twice (1967) – This hotel in Chiyoda-ku plays the part of Osato Chemicals exterior for a few brief moments on 24, 28, 36 and 41 minutes respectively. The nearest station is Akasaka-Mitsuke. Its small, but peaceful gardens round the back are worth a visit for anyone wishing to take a break from the concrete jungle. More details here

2. Riviera Hotel & Casino (from $21 per night), 2901 Las Vegas Boulevard South, USA.

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Diamonds Are Forever (1971) – Bond may have stayed at the Tropicana but its the Riviera which plays a more important part in the film. This is where he wins $50,000 and the opportunistic Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood) who he takes back to his room where gang members ambush them and throw O’Toole off a high rise balcony into a pool below not that they knew there was a pool there! This has been parodied a couple of times; in ‘The A-Team‘ TV series and more recently in ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013). Martin Scorsese’s ‘Casino‘ (1995) used this place as the fictitious Tangier casino. More details here

3. The Peninsula (from $604 per night), Salisbury Road, HONG KONG.

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The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) – Just a stones throw from the ferry terminal on Kowloon in Tsim Sha Tsui is this hotel (seen on 27 minutes) which is where Bond tracks down Scaramanga’s mistress Miss Andreas Anders’ who had been collecting gold bullets at a Macau casino room. It is room 602 where he puts pressure on her to inform him of Scramanga’s appearance and plans. More details here

4. Hotel Danieli (from $893 per night), Riva degli Schiavoni, 30122 Venezia, ITALY.

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Moonraker (1979) –  Situated round the corner from St Mark’s Square, the Hotel Danieli is where Dr Goodhead (Lois Chiles) stayed in Venice. It could also be seen in ‘The Tourist‘ (2010) which featured Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie as well as former James Bond actor Timothy Dalton. The interior was also the inspiration for the tiny studio-built sinking palazzo used at the end of ‘Casino Royale‘ (2006) which can be seen on the DVD extras. More details here

5. Langham Hilton (from $605 per night), 1C Portland Place, Westminster, London W1B, UK.

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GoldenEye (1995) – As Tokyo Fox reported back in March many Bond locations have been faked with Russia being a prime example in the first outing for Pierce Brosnan as 007. This hotel in London doubled up as the “Grand Hotel Europe.” More details here

6. Mandarin Oriental Hotel (from $39 per night), 48 Oriental Ave Alley, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, THAILAND.

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Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) – Bond (Roger Moore) is reunited with his British assistant Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) at this place on 65 minutes whereby they share dinner. Inevitably their evening is interrupted! Anders (Maud Adams) tells Bond that she wants him to kill Scaramanga and will pay him at a boxing venue the next day. More details here

7. Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture), Calle 1a Oeste, Caso Viejo, Panama City, PANAMA.

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Quantum Of Solace (2008) – As you may gather from the name of this one, it isn’t actually a hotel but the “Andean Grand Hotel” in Bolivia where Bond (Daniel Craig) takes MI6 officer Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) to having been unhappy with her original choice as part of their cover. More details here

15 ‘Fake’ Bond Filming Locations

Part of the appeal of the 007 franchise for many is that the 23 official films have given viewers a snapshot of world travel taking them to all corners of the globe. The list of countries the secret agent has been to is pretty exhausting but as ever in the film industry all is not what it seems. Of course the world famous Pinewood Studios have been used countless times to portray all kinds of exotic locations but there are also many other examples of when James Bond locations have been faked. Cleverly edited establishing shots of a city’s landscape mixed in with the fake locations are a long-used movie trade trick and some of those go un-noticed whereas others are more visible. Here, in alphabetical order, are the details of 15 such places.

Afghanistan ‘The Living Daylights‘ (1987) – For Timothy Dalton’s debut outing as 007 this Central Asian location was actually filmed in the desert of Ouarzazate in Morocco which has played host to many films. ‘Lawrence Of Arabia‘ (1962), ‘The Mummy‘ (1999), ‘Gladiator‘ (2000), ‘Hanna‘ (2011), ‘Salmon Fishing In The Yemen‘ (2011) as well as parts of the TV series ‘Game Of Thrones’ were all filmed at this door of the desert city.

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The standout sequence in “Afghanistan” sees Bond escape from a Russian air base by aircraft. Whilst trying to diffuse a bomb he is attacked by henchman, Necros and as they scrap away the loading ramp opens and a net containing opium bags tumbles out of the back of the plane taking Bond and Necros with it. The net remains attached to the aircraft as the two men fight to the death clinging on to it as it hangs in the wind.

Azerbaijan ‘The World Is Not Enough‘ (1999) – Hankley Common in Surrey, also used to replicate Bond’s family home in ‘Skyfall‘ (2012), is used for close-up shots of the Azerbaijan’s oilfields. Cuenca in central Spain is the site of the oil pipeline. A skiing sequence of events in the “Caucasus Mountains” was filmed on Mont Blanc near Chamonix on the Italian-French border.

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Capital city Baku is all fake; the exterior shots of  Electra’s palace is Küçüksu Palace in Istanbul, while the interior is the Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf and Spa (also used in ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘ and ‘Four Wedding’s And A Funeral‘) in the glamorous town of Luton, Bedforshire (UK). The casino bar is Halton House in Buckinghamshire and the airport where Bond exits the country is Northolt Airport, South Ruislip.

Bolivia ‘Quantum Of Solace‘ (2008) – Unhappy with MI6 officer Strawberry Fields’ (Gemma Arterton) choice of hotel as part of their cover, Bond takes her by taxi to a far more upmarket hotel. The Andean Grand Hotel in ‘Bolivia’ isn’t really a hotel but is actually the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture) in the World Heritage area of Casco Viejo in Panama City.

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The main villain Dominic Greene, holds a party which Bond attends with Agent Fields shortly after he seduces her. The location of this is of course not La Paz in Bolivia but the Old Union Club in Casco Viejo where all the rich people used to go and party. The ruins were scouted out for the film in October 2007 and is (as it was back then) now like an old shell but believe it or not it was completely revamped for shooting which can be seen in the ‘On Location’ dvd extra.

China ‘Skyfall‘ (2012) – Though the aerial shots are real the rooftop pool scene was actually filmed in London in Canary Wharf at the Virgin Active Classic Health Club. Still in “Shanghai” Bond follows hitman Patrice into a high-rise building but yet again its London and the Broadgate Tower at 201 Bishopsgate although its the entrance on Primrose Street which is seen.

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Croatia ‘From Russia With Love‘ (1963) – Istanbul’s Sirkeci station plays itself as the Turkish station where the Orient Express departs from and it also stands in for Zagreb.

Cuba Die Another Day‘ (2002) – Cadiz in Spain fills in for Cuba’s capital Havana but the cigar factory where Bond goes searching for Zao was actually shot inside Simpson House in Hackney in north London

Haiti  ‘Quantum Of Solace‘ (2008) – Due to its diversity Panama doubled up for a couple of countries; the aforementioned Bolivia and Haiti. Colon fills in for Port Au Prince and sees 007 gets into a bit of a tussle in a hotel and rides along a crumbling street to the waterfront docks in another dangerous part of the city.

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Kazakhstan ‘The World Is Not Enough‘ (1999) – Sites in Spain, England and Wales were all used to replicate this Central Asia country. Tudela in Spain is where 007 meets Christmas Jones. The pipeline terminal is the Motorola building in Swindon, Wiltshire (UK) but the actual pipeline is Snowdonia in Wales. The explosion was filmed at Black Park colliery in Chirk, North Wales.

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Madagascar ‘Casino Royale‘ (2006) – Bond chases bomb-maker Mollaka from a snake-mongoose fight to the ‘Nambutu Embassy’ which was actually Nassau in the Bahamas; a place synonymous with previous Bond films. The “Madagascan” construction site is part of a military base at Coral Harbour on New Providence Island.

Montenegro Casino Royale‘ (2006) – Bond and Vesper check into the Hotel Splendide which is actually the Grand Hotel Pupp in the town of Karlovy Vary, Bohemia on the west side of the Czech Republic.

North Korea ‘Die Another Day‘ (2002) – Would you believe it that Aldershot (UK) was used to replicate the world’s most repressive country?! Although it was mostly shot on the backlot at Pinewood, parts of this Hampshire town’s military training area was also used for the opening sequence.

Russia ‘GoldenEye‘ (1995) – The Russia bungy jump at the start was Tusker Dam in Hittnau, Switzerland. Epsom Racecourse doubled up as the St Petersburg Airport, the tank chase was filmed in Leavesden (UK), Hertfordshire, St Petersburg Square was Somerset House (which was used as MI6 HQ two years later in the next Bond movie ‘Tomorrow Never Dies‘) in London, the interior of the Russian church is St Sofia’s Cathedral in Bayswater on the aptly named Moscow Road. It’s exterior is Brompton Cemetery near Earls Court and the “Grand Hotel Europe” is the Langham Hilton at Portland Place in London.

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Serbia ‘From Russia With Love‘ (1963) – The previously mentioned Sirkeci station in Istanbul was used to portray three stations in three countries including Serbia capital Belgrade.

Siberia ‘A View To A Kill‘ (1985) – The pre-title credits may be set in Siberia but were actually filmed at a couple of places; Glacier Lake in south-east Iceland and the Vadretta di Scerscen Interiore on the border of Switzerland and Italy.

Slovakia ‘The Living Daylights‘ (1987) – Bratislava (now Slovakia but back then it was Czechoslovakia) is where the 15th entry in the James Bond series begins. 007 is assigned to aid the defection of a KGB officer from a concert hall in Bratislava. This was all shot inVienna which is less than an hour away.

Vietnam ‘Tomorrow Never Dies‘ (1997) – The caption on screen may say Halong Bay (Vietnam) but it is actually the limestone rock karsts of Phuket Bay in Thailand. It’s capital city Bangkok also stood in for the Saigon high-rise which Bond and Wai Lin abseil down. Many websites state that the building used was the Westin Banyan Tree Hotel BUT it is actually the Sinn Sathorn Tower on Krung Thonbrui Road, a kilometre down the road, where they make their escape on motorbike.

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Of course there have been many more ‘faked’ locations in the Bond films, usually with places around the UK filling in for other British and European towns and cities.

Many, many thanks to Tony Reeves

Top 10……Most Romantic* Filming Locations

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner what better way to celebrate the most romantic date (or what we’re told should be the romantic date!) on the calendar than taking a look at some places which have provided the backdrop for some scenes of affection being shown between lovers. Of course these images are helped on the silver screen with clever editing, added studio footage, CGI and musical scores which all add to the occasion. Basically, what we’re saying is that what you saw happen on screen may not transfer itself to your visit! This list features a mix of the good, the obvious, the bizarre and the plain wrong! So here without further ado is our Top 10……Most Romantic* Filming Locations…

(* The Beyond The Movies definition of romance!)

1. Villa Del Balbianello, Como (Italy): ‘Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones‘ (2002) & ‘Casino Royale‘ (2006) – A double dose of romantic action to get us started. Anakin and Padmé got secretly married here in the former and Bond recovers from his beating and then declares his love for Vesper in the latter. More details here and here.


2. Royal Exchange Building, London (UK): ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary‘ (2000) – Bridget catches up with Darcy here and is relieved to see him present her with a new diary so that they can make a new start together as one. More details here.


3. St. Mark’s Anglican Church Darling Point, Sydney (Australia): ‘Muriel’s Wedding‘ (1994) – There’s surely got to be a church somewhere in this list and so its this one! Muriel finally realises her dream here…or does she?! More details here.


4. Bocca Della Verita, Rome (Italy): ‘Roman Holiday‘ (1954) – Providing the films most famous scene where Joe pulls his hand out of the ‘mouth of truth’ with his hand up his sleeve astonishing Ann. More details here.


5. Maya Bay, Phuket (Thailand): ‘The Beach‘ (2000) – Leo not only stole the heart of the beautiful Francoise here but he stole her from “French boy” too! Don’t expect to have this place to yourselves is all I’m saying! More details here.


6. Katz’s Deli, New York (USA): ‘When Harry Met Sally‘ (1989) – “I’ll have what she’s having!” is the classic line delivered at this sandwich shop following Sally’s fake climax in response to Harry’s boast that none of his one night stands had faked an orgasm. More details here.


7.  Tiffany’s, New York (USA): ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ (1966) – The image of Audrey Hepburn in her black evening gown and sunglasses with a pearl necklace around her neck and a coffee and croissant in her hand is an iconic one. She gets out of a yellow cab as the morning light breaks and gazes up at the famous jewellery store sign. All girls love Tiffany’s and who would’ve thought that 18 months after visiting this place with my girlfriend I’d be presenting her with a Tiffany’s engagement ring! More details here.


8.  Whittier High School, Los Angeles (USA): ‘Back To The Future‘ (1984) – Marty went back to the past to change his future by getting his parents together in the first place at the ‘Enchantment Under The Sea’ dance at this school. More details here.


9. Imperial Palace, Las Vegas (USA): ‘Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery‘ (1997) – Alotta Fagina’s penthouse suite where Austin shagged her rotten to use his exact words! More details here.

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10. Tiki Motel, Los Angeles (USA): ‘The Terminator‘ (1984) – John Connor was conceived here in what is perhaps the most pivotal point in the whole Terminator franchise. You could stay in the same room where Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese did the deed! More details here.


Entrapment Filming Locations (Malaysia)

Perhaps the best and most famous movie to have been shot in Malaysia is ‘Entrapment‘ (1999) starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones as two international art thieves. It’s fair to say that this film, which cost just $66m to produce, doesn’t have too much competition although the likes of ‘The Sleeping Dictionary‘ (2003) and ‘Indochine‘ (1992) are worthwhile competitors. For the record, ‘Beyond Rangoon‘ (1995) and ‘Anna & The King‘ (1999) were also filmed in Malaysia but ‘set’ in Myanmar and Thailand respectively.

The Petronas Twin Towers in capital city Kuala Lumpur feature throughout but the most prominent scenes are on 64 minutes (see the screenshots below) with a brief cameo on 98 minutes. In the initial scenes movie magic makes it seem like the Melaka River, which is 144km away, is just a stones throw from one of the country’s most iconic sights. This blending of the scenery for the two places had some local people up in arms but this kind of thing happens all the time and is part and parcel of film-making.

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After a brief appearance on 75 minutes the film climaxes on 98 minutes at Pudu LRT station……or so it seems!! However, it is actually Bukit Jalil LRT station which is much further south along the same Sri Petaling Line. The signs were obviously just changed to its far more famous mass transit station and there’s also the rumour that it was changed as Pudu was the only station name that Connery was able to pronounce correctly.

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I dragged my girlfriend here on our second day in KL to take the match-up shots I needed with the action first taking place on the platform heading back into the city centre as can be seen by the buildings in the distance of the screen-grabs below but naturally a lot of time has passed since filming took place at this station so the trees and bushes in the background of all shots has changed quite a bit and boy was I confused at times with which scene was done on what platform. I’m not even sure if each part was actually shot on the platform it supposedly takes place on!

Connery’s character Mac is a punctual man often saying “I’m never late!” and “If I’m late it’s because I’m dead!” but when he arranges to meet at Pudu station the following morning at 6.30am (as ‘Plan B’ is put into place) you just know its not gonna be that simple.

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Sure enough, he shows up late for his meeting with Gin (Zeta-Jones) but with the FBI in tow too! He explains that he made a deal with them on his capture to help them arrest her. However, his plan is to help her escape which he does in a fashion which is a little bit ridiculous but nevertheless tense and exciting.

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Once Gin has made her initial escape, Mac sits down on one of the benches but they are no longer in the station. Or they may have just been props added for the movie. The advertising screens were bare in the 113 minute movie, which was directed by Jon Amiel, but in reality they are always advertising something or another.

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The other filming locations for this movie, which takes place on Millennium Eve, were in England and Scotland with the likes of Blenheim Palace, The Savoy Hotel, Borough Market, Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull, Eilean Donan Castle and Pinewood Studios featuring amidst the Malaysian scenes.

If you haven’t already seen it (why would you be looking at this page if you haven’t?!!) then you can watch ‘Entrapment‘ here

BTM Top 10……Filming Location Trips For 2013

Having already covered most of the filming locations I ever wanted to do, its getting harder and harder to add to the pile, so this list is not ’13 Filming Location Trips For 2013′ but instead will be known as a BTM Top…… list instead.

Thank god these end-of-year entries is titled ‘Filming Location Trips’ as that means I can include music video locations as well as film ones to bulk out the list a bit!! What chance it being just a BTM Top……5 list next year!!

This years list may lack the oomph of past years but there were still a few notable nuggets covered in the last 12 months. Click on the links below to see more.

1. Skyfall (Click here)

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2. Mission: Impossible III (Click here)

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3. Empire Of The Sun (Click here)

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4. The Toxic Avenger Part II (Click here)

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5. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Click here)

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6. Quantum Of Solace (Click here)

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7. The Wolverine (Click here)

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8. Lost In Translation (Click here)

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9. Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness (Click here)

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10. Muse – Panic Station (Click here)

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Other 2013 locations for the films listed below can be found here

Moonraker; The Green Zone; Love Actually; Basic Instinct 2; The Bourne Ultimatum; The Tailor of Panama and Kaiser Chiefs ‘Man On Mars’.


BTM Top 5……Mission: Impossible Filming Locations

Fuelled by a memorable and ever-lasting theme tune the ‘Mission: Impossible‘ film series currently stands at four films starring Tom Cruise as IMF Agent Ethan Hunt. There is talk of a fifth movie scheduled for late 2015 but for now we will have to settle for what we’ve got from a series which is the 15th highest grossing film series of all time with over $2 billion worth of worldwide gross. The series has taken place around the globe in the likes of the USA, Australia, England, Czech Republic, UAE, Russia, Scotland, India, Hungary, Canada, China and Italy so here are the TF Top 5…… Mission Impossible locations. Warning! This piece may contain plot spoilers!

1. Xitang, Jiashan County, Zhejiang Province (China): ‘Mission: Impossible III‘ (2006) – Hunt and his team track down the mysterious rabbits foot to Shanghai and, though its not named, the place Hunt ends up in is Xitang. He finds villain Owen Davian here and basically accomplishes his mission. More details here

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2. Bare Island, La Peruse, Bottany Bay, New South Wales (Austrlia): ‘Mission: Impossible II‘ (2000) – This island, south of Sydney, is villain Sean Ambrose’s hideout and one that provides one of the movies most iconic images as Hunt rides his motorcycle through balls of fire as he escapes from the fort. More details here

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3. Charles Bridge, Prague (Czech Repblic): ‘Mission: Impossible‘ (1996) – The world heritage bridge, which connects the Old Town with Prague Castle, is where things really go wrong with controller Jim Phelps plunging into the Vltava having seemingly taken a bullet on the bridge. This famous bridge was also used in music video’s by Linkin Park (‘Numb‘) and Kanye West (‘Diamonds From Sierra Leone‘) as well as 2002 ‘XxX‘ where Vin Diesel comes up with an out-of-this-world stunt to save the bridge and the city of Prague from a deadly bomb. More details here

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4. Anchor Tavern Pub, Southwark, London (UK): ‘Mission: Impossible‘ (1996) – This is the terrace pub on London’s South Bank where Hunt finally gets to take it easy for a few moments as the film comes to a conclusion. More details here

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5. Caserta Palace, Caserta (Italy): ‘Mission: Impossible III‘ (2006) – This palace has featured prominently in movie history and in this film it doubles up as Vatican City which  Ethan and the team infiltrate to capture antagonist Davian who is there to obtain the mysterious ‘Rabbit’s Foot’. More details here

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BTM Top 5……Indiana Jones Filming Locations

Poor old Indy! A classic iconic character from a highly popular franchise but belonging to a franchise that often gets forgotten about when everyone is going on about the Star Wars with regard to Disney’s acquirement of LucasFilm. When they paid $4 billion dollars to buy out the production company they also gained Indiana Jones too. With Walt Disney Studios announcing a week ago that it had reached a marketing and distribution agreement with Paramount Pictures for future Indiana Jones films the process of making and releasing Indy 5 should be much easier. To celebrate the news that there may finally be some more Indiana Jones material on the way, we have managed to cobble together some Indy locations for this feature! Here then, in no particular order, is the TF Top 5……Indiana Jones Filming Locations (that we’ve been to!!)

1. Petra (Jordan) – ‘Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade‘ (1989): The search for the grail leads Indy through the narrow Siq to the splendour of The Treasury at this world heritage site. It featured less memorably in ‘Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger‘ (1977) before our favourite fedora wearing doctor made it more famous over a decade later with Sean Connery, who played his father, by his side. More details here

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2. Sidi Bouhlel, Nefta (Tunisia) – ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark‘ (1981): When it comes to popular cultural references, yet again Indiana Jones lives in the shadows of ‘Star Wars‘ where the canyon memorably featured in the 1977 original film. George Lucas was obviously impressed with the area as he used it again years later for the scene where Indiana threatens to blow up the Ark. More details here

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3. Chiesa di San Barnaba, Venice (Italy) – ‘Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade‘ (1989): Indy finds an important clue relating to the numeral ‘X’ in this place which is a library in the film. More details here

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4. Royal Horticultural Hall, London (UK) – ‘Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade‘ (1989): This place in Westminster on Greycoat Street portrayed Berlin Airport as it did yet again in ‘The Saint‘ (1997). More details here

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5. Kairouan (Tunisia) – ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark‘ (1981): The streets of this Islamic holy city in Tunisia’s carpet capital represented Cairo in Egypt and many of these places look very similar today. Perhaps the most famous scene is the one in the market where Harrison Ford (kind of!) improvised a scene and just shot the sword-wielding assassin as the extreme heat was affecting his health and he just wanted a short end to the filming. More details here

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BTM Top 5……Kyoto Filming Locations

Inevitably the majority of foreign film productions usually only come to Tokyo when they make their films in Japan but a handful have also taken place in Kyoto and so here are theTokyo Fox top 5……Kyoto Filming Locations…

1. Fushimi-Inari taisha Jinja – One of the coolest places in Japan, this shrine in the mountains has hundreds and hundreds of tori gates with its moment of fame coming when it featured in ‘Memoirs Of A Geisha‘ (2006) as a young Chiyo runs through them in one of the movie’s most defining moments. More details here

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2. Chion-in – A bit of CGI is used in ‘The Last Samurai‘ (2003) as the steep steps at this shrine lead to a very dominating building directly at the top. In reality there is no such place dominating the skyline. The same main entrance gate, which is protected by two guards in that film, is also seen briefly in ’Lost In Translation‘ (2003) as Charlotte (Scarlett Johanson) heads in that direction. More details here and here 

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3. Heian-jingu Shrine – Scarlett Johanson walks over the stepping stones in this shrine’s garden in ‘Lost In Translation‘ (2003) before moments later walking across the impressive shrines grounds. The beautiful bridge amid the gardens also appears briefly in the final moments of ’Memoirs Of A Geisha‘ (2006). More details here and here

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4. Kiyomizudera – A very major sight in its own right and nearly always part of one’s itinerary when visiting Kyoto. It featured highly in one extensive scene in ’Wasabi‘ (2000) with Hubert (Jean Reno) and his former colleague Momo investigating Miko’s death whereby they find some important clues among the wooden placades. The three storey pagoda features a few times in ’Memoirs Of A Geisha‘ (2006) between scenes to  show that a new day or season has begun. More details here and here

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5. Yoshimine-dera Temple – It may be Fushimi-inari where the young Chiyo starts her run but a bit of movie magic has her ending up at this temple where she throws the Chairman’s coin into the saisenbako and makes a wish in ‘Memoirs Of A Geisha‘ (2006). Be aware that this temple is a 3o minute bus ride away from Mukomachi station on the JR Kyoto Line. More details here

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Tokyo Daytripper: The 47 Rōnin At Sengakuji Temple

With a big Hollywood actor now starring in the forthcoming ‘47 Rōnin‘ movie the story of these 47 loyal samurai will be taken to an all-new and much bigger audience. Unbelievably, its one of those rare films which gets its worldwide release here in Japan whilst the UK and USA have to wait till Christmas time for its release. Keanu Reeves has top billing and he’s ably supported by Rinko Kikuchi of ‘Babel‘ (2004) and ‘Pacific Rim‘ (2013) fame. Hiroyuki Sanada from ‘The Last Samurai‘ (2003) is also cast.

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For anyone wanting to get a real feel for this story they really ought to make their way down to Sengakuji Temple which possesses the burial ground of the 47 loyal samurai who  (WARNING: plot spoiler coming up for anyone who doesn’t know the story!) set out to avenge the death and dishonour of their leader by raiding the chief instigators castle where they ruthlessly and violently beheaded him. Their following collective action was to commit suicide which was seen as an honour.


Arriving at Sengakuji you encounter the outer gate (above left) and then the inner gate (above right) and just to the right of that is the statue of Ōishi Yoshio (below); the real leader of the 47 rōnin.

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To be honest I’d never really had too much affection for Sengakuji Temple despite having been there three or four times! However, that was before I begun to realise its deep history rather than just checking it off a list of sights to get round as part of some of my Tokyo cycling challenges. These have included cycling Tokyo’s Top 25 Sights in one daywhere I didn’t even go inside, and last year I learned a bit more about the place as I cycled there on a themed tour of Tokyo’s most haunted sights.

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Once you’ve gone through the inner gate there is a path on the left which will take you towards the graves of the 47 rōnin. There is a tiny hut selling postcards, candles and incense sticks and just beyond that is the map which indicates where each warrior, who was willing to die for their lord, is buried though sadly its only in Japanese.

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No less than six films have already been made about the forty-seven Rōnin. I haven’t seen any of them and I can’t say that the trailer really got me too excited. It all looks a bit like a coming together of ‘Gladiator‘ (2000), ‘Lord Of The Rings‘ (2001), ‘Attack Of The Clones‘ (2002) and ‘The Last Samurai‘ (2003) but who can really tell from just two minutes of fast paced and cleverly edited footage.

This fantasy adventure and martial arts story of the 47 warriors who seized eternity was filmed in Budapest, London and the Isle of Skye in Scotland. We were originally told that it was not shot in Japan at all but sources are now saying that filming did indeed conclude here. We will find out very soon for sure!

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Sengakuji Temple is at 2-11-1 Takanawa in Minato-ku and ‘47 Rōnin’ is released in Japan on the 6th December 2013



On Screen #3 – Myanmar (Burma)

What I like about doing the research for this On Screen series is finding out how scenes in certain countries are faked and filmed elsewhere or in the studio. Myanmar, or Burma as it was formerly known, is one such country where other countries have almost always had to fill in for this south-east asian country which has long suffered from internal conflict.

These struggles completely dominate almost all TV and films set in Myanmar and due to the slight relaxation of control by their government the country is relatively calm these days but watching these films still doesn’t do too much to put one’s mind at ease!!

Between 1926 and 1962 well over a dozen films were set in Burma as it was called back then. Many of these were set around the time of WWII and whilst I’m not gonna talk about them in this entry I will provide you with the following list:

The Road To Mandalay (1926); Mandalay (1934); The Girl From Mandalay (1936); Burma Convoy (1941); Moon Over Burma (1940); A Yank On The Burma Road (1942); Bombs Over Burma (1942); Rookies In Burma (1943); Burma Victory (1945); Objective Burma (1945); The Purple Rain (1954); Escape To Burma (1955); The Burmese Harp (1956); Never So Few (1959); Yesterday’s Enemy (1959) and Merrills Marauders (1962).

Beyond Rangoon‘ (1995) was watched on YouTube a while back and it depicts events during the 8888 Uprising in 1988. (You can see it here). Its main star Patricia Arquette loses her passport at a political rally and, left to her own devices, she gets caught up in a fight for democracy as she and leader U Aung Ko travel through Burma as they try to escape to Thailand. The film, which has an emotional score by Hans Zimmer, was mostly shot in Malaysia with some scenes captured in Thailand.

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American sci-fi action flop ‘Stealth‘ (2005) absolutely bombed at the cinema’s. This poor-mans ‘Top Gun‘ shows one scene quite early on in the film involving an aircraft bombing of a high-rise building in nighttime Rangoon. IMDb (which is never too reliable for its vague filming locations section) says that Zetland in Sydney, Australia was used as Burma in the film but I really wonder if thats true for it was surely Thailand. In fact the very same site also mentions that the building was actually added by CGI to the west side of the highway leading from downtown Bangkok to Don Muang Airport. Whilst vehicles are driven on the left in Thailand they drive on the other side in Burma after it was changed in a statement of independence in 1970. However, in the aforementioned scene you can see cars being driven on the left!

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In 2008 Sly Stallone mumbled his way through ‘Rambo‘ and indeed through war torn Burma to rescue a group of Christian aid workers in the long awaited (20 years!) follow up to ‘Rambo III.’ Burma is even more of a bloodbath than generalisations purvey as Rambo and a few cronies rampage their way through the whole country taking out the lot of them almost single handedly. Among his victims are a group of pirates and an entire squad of Burmese army soldiers whom he shoots with a jeep-mounted machine gun. Stallone justified this in a press conference by saying the violence in the film was to draw attention to the ongoing problems in the country.

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Largo Winch II‘ (2011) was the original title for what became more commonly known as ‘The Burma Conspiracy‘ starring Tomer Sisley back as the title character alongside a much under-used Sharon Stone. Burma is only really seen in flashback scenes from a few years before and naturally its not very nice stuff. I haven’t seen the original Largo Winch film so sadly can’t compare them in any way but this one, though a bit disjointed at times, was quite an entertaining watch and Largo’s scenes with Malunaï (played by a Thai actress) were particularly moving at times.

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Personally, I didn’t know too much about Aung San Suu Kyi until her release from house arrest back in November 2010 which was at a time when director Luc Besson was actually working on ‘The Lady‘ starring Michelle Yeoh in the biopic about the icon. They were filming in Bangkok on a six week shoot at the time which was where most of the Myanmar scenes were filmed. Suu Kyi’s lakeside mansion outside Rangoon was recreated to exact dimensions in Thailand in a setting identical to the real house.

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Besson scouted locations himself in Myanmar and even filmed in disguise at landmarks such as the golden pagoda (Uppatasanti) and the aerial shots of the river were done on the sly via a rented helicopter crossing the border from Thailand to Burma.

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It Ain’t Half Hot Mum‘ was a BBC TV comedy which ran for 8 series between 1974 and 1981 following the comic adventures of a group of misfits who formed an extremely bad Royal Artillery concert party touring the hot and steamy jungles of Burma entertaining the troops during WWII. It was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft; the same duo responsible for ‘Dad’s Army‘ (1968-1977) which was also a sitcom set in WWII. It attracted audiences of around 15 million at its peak, but it controversially made jokes about the cultural differences between the Indian, Burmese and Japanese. It attracted audiences of around 15 million at its peak, but it controversially made jokes about the cultural differences between the Indian, Burmese and Japanese. At its peak it managed to attract an audience of 15 million and was very much “of its time” as it controversially made jokes about the cultural differences between Indian, Burmese and Japanese people. It made the news last year when it was announced that it would never be repeated on our screens again as the BBC deemed it too racist for modern society.

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The British Television Location Guide‘ book (2011) by Steve Clark and Shoba Vazirani has a short half page piece about where it was filmed and how it was (quite obviously) faked to look like Burma. Not surprisingly, the majority of filming was confined to the BBC studios but they did venture a bit further south on occasion. Indeed, they went all of about 40 miles south to the tropical climate that is Farnham in Surrey!! A good mix of clever make-up, heavy lighting, rubber plants and fake sweat made it slightly resemble the hot sticky climate of Burma. The first four series were set in India but from series 5 the concert party were posted “up the jungle” to Tin Min in Burma close to the front line.

His shows have featured in both ‘On Screen #1‘ and ‘On Screen #2‘ so far and this will be no exception either for Anthony Bourdain who, having moved to CNN, started off his new TV series in Myanmar. Season 1 episode 1 of ‘Parts Unknown‘ debuted on CNN back in April of this year with the witty, sarcastic and profanity-using American chef/TV personality exploring one of the most fabled areas of Asia with Yangon and Bagan being the places he visited. Finally…. a bit of on screen time devoted to showing the country in a positive light after fifty years of nightmare.

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