Supervising Location Manager Terry Blyther doubles Budapest for Moscow in Die Hard 5
A Good Day to Die Hard is the latest in the iconic Bruce Willis action movie franchise. Supervising Location Manager Terry Blyther turned Budapest into Moscow for the fifth instalment, which sees Willis’ John McClane coming to the aid of his CIA agent son against the Russian underworld.
Blyther spent ten days scouting Moscow when the production was considering basing itself in the Russian capital for real, but in the end it wasn’t a practical choice. “[It was] an incredible place,” he comments: “I never thought I would stand in deep snow on the Garden Ring Highway (a road encircling the city centre) working out how to control [it] and close it for car stunts! Eventually only a small secondary unit did get to the Moscow streets.”
Filming ended up focussing on Budapest with servicing from Mid Atlantic Films. The city offered the right combination of a “Moscow feel, studio space and financial incentives”. Time was one of the biggest challenges they faced during the shoot. The script called for immense stunt and action sequences that involved large-scale street closures in the city centre and this called for lengthy advance communication with multiple city agencies.
“When you are closing major parts of a city the level of notice to public transport services, traffic management and emergency services is essential,” Blyther explains: “Janos Cserven, my Hungarian Head Location Manager, worked tirelessly keeping ahead of our ever-changing schedule so that we worked with the city of Budapest, not against it.
“Safety is another great challenge. Ensuring public and crew safety over what could involve 20 cars moving at high speed in tight, narrow residential streets - you need a lot of experienced manpower. I had a great team.”
Blyther has worked on his share of action cinema over the course of his career, with his experiences leaning towards historical epics. He helped secure the Bourne Wood location in the UK for the opening battle sequence in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator where Russell Crowe’s Maximus wins a decisive victory against Germanic hordes.
Ensuring public and crew safety over what could involve 20 cars moving at high speed in tight, narrow residential streets - you need a lot of experienced manpower.
Terry Blyther, Supervising Location Manager
“[It was] a four-month preparation,” he recalls: “Fire breaks cut, water reservoirs and gas pipes laid in trees to create the flaming forest effect, logistics for the 1,500 Roman soldiers, horses, chariots to be ready and transported to set [and] four weeks of the most intense filming on the battlefield every day; I am very proud of the part I played in that iconic movie.”
Having helped recreate an epic Roman battle for Ridley Scott, Blyther headed to the Alps a few years later to film Alien vs Predator. A spin-off science-fiction throwing together horror cinema's favourite xenomorph with the Predator first fought by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the late 80s, Blyther ranks it as one of his biggest challenges.
The production ended up filming on the famous Hellbronner platform on Mont Blanc, shooting at an altitude of 13,000 feet and even building a small set next to it.
“[We were contending with] altitude sickness, helicopter lifts to the top for both the set and equipment, a two-day shoot [with] wind chill of -13 and a team of 40 ‘sherpas’ to carry everything as the crew could not breathe!” Blyther exclaims, adding: “Great job - loved every minute of it!”
While more exotic international work has been more normal for Blyther in recent years, he spent more than a decade working in and around London. “Is the process any easier? I hope not,” he concludes: “That’s what keeps Location Managers employed!”
A Good Day to Die Hard is in cinemas around the world now.
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