Marvel films Avengers Age of Ultron in Seoul, Italy and South Africa
Marvel filmed its superhero sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron partly in Seoul, Johannesburg and in Italy, expanding the story to international settings. The movie continues the adventures of Captain America, Black Widow, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Hawkeye.
While the first Avengers movie filmed in the US with studio work focussed on Albuquerque and New York, this time production was based in London at Shepperton Studios. Marvel used the UK’s generous filming incentives and Age of Ultron became the largest production to shoot at Shepperton in 2014.
Marvel chose Johannesburg in South Africa as the filming location for a key action sequence where Iron Man is tasked with subduing The Hulk. Moonlighting Production Services assisted the shoot locally.
“Johannesburg is a melting pot of African culture and is very interesting visually,” Lengyel observes: “It has a great skyline, which was important as we were planning lots of aerial shots. The local authorities were very helpful.”
“When you’re bringing a movie of this size, you need a government that’s going be welcoming, co-operative and give you the access to the city that you need,” adds executive producer Jeremy Latcham.
The ambition from the start was to go global, with a broader visual canvas that could take the franchise to new markets.
Jamie Lengyel, Supervising Location Manager
“We looked all over Africa for this sequence and Johannesburg was clearly the place to be," Latcham continues: "It had the look and access to the streets we needed. It was really film-friendly. In the downtown streets we flew helicopters, crashed cars and exploded massive pyrotechnics.
“It’s really exciting and nice to find governments that want filmmakers to come and show off their city and that’s what we have done and I think the people of Johannesburg are going to be thrilled to see their city well-represented up on the big screen.”
Production shifted to the mountainous Aosta Valley in north-western Italy, which became a stand-in for the film’s fictional Eastern European setting Sokovia. Here, Lengyel and his team had found the 19th century Fort Bard, which was considered ideal for the base belonging to the villainous Hydra organisation.
“Fort Bard is really the location hub of the film,” Lengyel considers: “We researched castles across Europe and found that Ford Bard had a great cinematic setting nestled in the mountains. There was a real hint of mystery about what was inside and beneath it, and that worked particularly well for our story.”
Several small Italian towns near the fort became stand-ins for the rest of Sokovia, with the production team utilising narrow, European streets.
“We were specifically looking for medieval Eastern European streets and those small towns worked as they didn’t feel much like Italy,” Lengyel recalls: “They were attractive but felt somehow forgotten.”
It’s really exciting and nice to find governments that want filmmakers to come and show off their city.
Jeremy Latcham, Executive Producer
The Aosta Valley shoot was supported by Gabriele Accornero, Director of Fort Bard, and Augusto Rollandin, President of the Aosta Valley.
Scenes filmed in Italy were matched with those shot on a special back lot set built at Hendon Police College in north-west London (below). Here, the architecture of the Aosta Valley was recreated for scenes involving dramatic pyrotechnics.
Partly a commercial consideration to acknowledge Marvel’s Korean fan base and growing status as an international film market, the city also offered a modern metropolis largely unfamiliar to mainstream international audiences.
“We looked at several Asian cities but Seoul had the best combination of great infrastructure, an existing film culture and open-door enthusiasm,” Lengyel explains: “The city was completely suited to the scale of action we planned.”
The immense ten-lane Mapo Bridge was chosen as a key filming location for an action chase sequence involving Captain America and the mile-long structure was completely closed for the shoot. The Seoul Film Commission helped organise the shoot.
“That’s not an option that’s readily available in places like Hong Kong. I would think this film will only enhance Seoul’s attractiveness as an international filming location for the right project.”
“Seoul is a very cutting-edge city in real life and is a technologically driven society and they love the notion of us coming to their city and showcasing that,” says Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios and a producer on all the studio’s films.
“They were incredibly gracious and gave us unprecedented access to the city and areas that had never been shot in before.”
(Images courtesy of Jamie Lengyel and Marvel Studios)
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