Hooray for Holawood: Spain’s film location fakes

David Whitley February 19, 2013 Comments Off on Hooray for Holawood: Spain’s film location fakes

The Middle East? Nope – it’s Seville…

Whether it’s Andalucian desert pretending to be the wild west, Seville pretending to be the Middle East or Granada posing as Turkey, Spain makes a great cinematic stunt double.

One of Spain’s major attractions is that everywhere seems a little bit different. If you lined up pictures of sun-parched Almeria, mountain towns in the Pyrenees and the green countrysides of the north west, the impartial observer would never place them in the same nation. It is arguably more diverse than any other country in Europe, slotting together scenes that could be from all over the world in one peninsula. This is something that has not gone unnoticed by film-makers over the years, and Spain has developed a reputation as a passable substitute for just about anywhere. Whilst Hollywood may be awash with money, sometimes faking it is necessary, be it due to having to cut corners to accommodate star salaries, the actual setting being geographically inaccessible or foreign governments getting all political about having American camera crews there. This is where Spain has stepped in on many an occasion, and some of the most famous movies in history have been shot on Spanish soil. Here are just a few…


Spain as… The Wild West

A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Spain came to prominence as a cheap staging ground for Hollywood films when the so-called Spaghetti Westerns were shot in the Tabernas desert near Almeria. Although financed by Italian corporations, there were no suitable outdoor locations in Italy for the famous shoot-out scenes.

But Tabernas was a great double for southern California and New Mexico. Of the films shot here, the moody gunslinging epics of Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, which catapulted Clint Eastwood to fame, are the most recognisable. Whilst filming has now wound down in the area, sets can still be visited. One of them, Mini Hollywood (+34 95 036 5236) is now a full-on theme park, with staged shoot-outs all part of the fun.


Spain as… The Soviet Union

Dr Zhivago

When David Lean wanted to film Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak’s epic story of love and revolution, it was fairly obvious that the Soviet regime was not going to allow him a free rein in the streets of Moscow. The logical place, therefore, to create painstakingly accurate portrayals of a Russian winter was a big plot of land near Madrid’s international airport, yes? The set constructed was as expansive as it was expensive, including a replica of The Kremlin, but one thing was missing – snow. They had to use ground marble instead. The set is no longer there, but you can visit the film’s version of the Ural Mountains. The scenes of Zhivago crossing the steppes were filmed at the height of summer on the northern slopes of the Sierra de Guadarrama. The range is a short drive out of Madrid, and usually offers a cooler alternative to the city heat. Try telling that to Omar Sharif and co, who were forced to swelter in huge fur coats.


Spain as… Turkey

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Given the Moorish influence on the city, Granada was an obvious choice to double for the Turkish port of Iskenderun. With bustling streets and Arabic architecture being the two main prerequisites, the city was a perfect fit. The Muslim rule may have been relinquished in the 15th century, but the influence still remains, most noticeably in the justly famous Alhambra Palace. This is one of Spain’s biggest tourist draws, and despite the hype, it never fails to disappoint. The Arab quarter, or El Albaicín, is the best place to get a real taste of both the past and a different culture.


Spain as… The Middle East

Lawrence of Arabia

While the famous desert scenes were mainly filmed in Jordan, ironically the Jordanian seaport of Aqaba wasn’t deemed up to the task of playing itself. It ended up being built from scratch on Playa del Algorocibo, near Almeria. Many of the other cities featured in David Lean’s epic turned out to be Seville, though. The Cairo officer’s club is the Palaçio Español in Plaza de España, while the buildings around Plaza De Americas double as Jerusalem and the Casino de la Exposición fills in for the town hall in Damascus. The Moorish influence on Andalucia’s biggest city was the clincher, but there is more to the city than old buildings. It’s arguably the home of both flamenco and, more controversially, bull-fighting.


Spain as… Cuba

Die Another Day

Though part of the 20th James Bond film was set in Havana, due to American sanctions against the Caribbean island, filming there was an impossibility. After scouting around the world to find something similar, the producers eventually thought the old, pastel-coloured buildings of Cadiz were the perfect match. Cadiz is dripping in history, and is the oldest city in Western Europe. It was founded by the Phoenicians as a trading centre back in around 1100BC, and was Spain’s most important port for centuries. Columbus set off on his second and fourth voyages from here, whilst there is also Roman, Carthaginian and Moorish heritage. For those more concerned with topping up a tan than the knowledge bank, the beaches are also superb. La Caleta beach, in particular, may seem familiar – that’s because it’s the spot where Halle Berry emerges from the water in homage to Ursula Andress in Dr No.


Spain as… France

Kingdom of Heaven

Ridley Scott’s big-budget vision of the Crusades started off with Orlando Bloom’s lead character plying his trade as a blacksmith in a sleepy French village in the shadow of a great castle. This mighty fortress was actually Loarre Castle, in the Huesca province of Aragon. Built in the 11th and 12th century, it has an imposing position in the foothills of the Pyrenees, looking over the plains of Sotonera. Later on, the Valsain forest near Segovia was used for the pivotal ambush scene, and this woodland is a nature-lover’s paradise. Wild boar and deer still gambol through the densely-packed trees and, unless you do something to really annoy them, they are happy to share their territory with walkers.



This post was kindly sponsored by Holiday Hypermarket

Benidorm is truly a great destination for people who want to relax and spend quality time with friends, families and loved ones. The breathtaking scenery, as well as the fun activities that one can do here, will truly make any visit remarkable. The clubs and bars here are perfect for those who want to experience Benidorm’s buzzing nightlife, while the beaches are ideal for people who want a more laid back type of vacation.

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