Is it mere coincidence that a new Hollywood blockbuster, a take on the medieval legend of King Arthur, is due for release this month – smack bang in the middle of the Year of Legends in Wales? Ask director Guy Ritchie and he’ll blame other Hollywood movies for muscling in on King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’s original 2016 release date but we think there’s a sweet poetry to it hitting the silver screen this month.
With an all-star lineup including Jude Law as Arthur’s evil uncle Vortigern, Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam as Arthur and Eric Bana as his father, Uther Pendragon, the movie has all the hallmarks of a box office hit. Add into the mix a cameo from David Beckham and, on paper, it’s pretty much perfect viewing!
For us, the cherry on top is the fact that Ritchie chose Snowdonia as his backdrop for the movie. It’s especially fitting as our mountains are the spiritual home of the legendary King Arthur and because their majestic beauty makes the perfect location for an epic historical movie like this one.
In 2015, film crews came to North Wales, setting up at several familiar locations close to the Royal Victoria Hotel, including the Vivian Quarry (just minutes from the hotel), Nant Gwynant near Beddgelert and Capel Curig. Local drama students were lucky enough to get the opportunity to work as extras on the movie too!
You can view the trailer here – don’t miss it!
But Snowdonia is no stranger to the bright lights of Hollywood. The dramatic peaks and valleys of the Snowdonia National Park have provided backdrops for many big name films over the years. The untouched, timeless landscape of the national park has proved an ideal setting for movies, especially historical and fantasy genres. The towering mountains are accustomed to playing a role too – they have been used in countless movies to represent other impressive destinations including China and Kazakhstan.
And it’s not just Snowdonia that caught the eye of the camera – the Llyn Peninsula, Anglesey and the North Wales coast have all enjoyed their fifteen minutes of fame too. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the movies that were filmed in North Wales.
Inn of the Sixth Happiness
Back in 1958, movie Inn of the Sixth Happiness brought China to Snowdonia, when the hills of Moel Dyniewyd near Beddgelert were transformed into a Chinese city. This true life adaptation featured screen siren Ingrid Bergman as Gladys Aylward, a lowly English maid who becomes a missionary to the Far East in the years leading up to World War Two. A giant golden Buddha statue used as a prop in the movie now resides at Portmeirion, close to where Ingrid Bergman herself was spotted relaxing during filming.
Tomb Raider 2 – Lara Croft and the Cradle of Life
Snowdonia was again used as a stand-in for China when Angelina Jolie starred in the hit action movie, Tomb Raider 2. The producers chose Snowdonia as a backup after they were denied rights to film in China itself. The movie, which features Jolie as a feisty female treasure hunter, shot scenes at Nant Gwynant, Llyn Gwynant, Moel Siabod and Pen-y-Pass (just up the road from the hotel). The Alexandra Slate Quarry in Rhosgadfan was the location for one of the most exciting scenes in the $100m film, when it stood in as the dwelling place of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors.
From Russia with Love & The World is Not Enough
There’s something about Snowdonia which keeps James Bond coming back, with two 007 flicks being filmed partly in the area.The 1963 Bond movie, From Russia With Love, saw James enjoying the North Wales countryside on a romantic trip with his squeeze for the movie, Tatiana Romanova. Years later the bond crew returned to film scenes for 1999 movie, The World is Not Enough, where Bond and sidekick Christmas Jones, foil a terrorist plot to take over the world’s oil supply. The disputed pipeline is not actually in Azerbaijan as portrayed in the movie but on the slopes of Snowdon!
Visit North Wales and it’s not hard to see why film-makers return again and again to use our beautiful landscape as a backdrop for all kinds of movies. Don’t miss Snowdonia’s next outing on the big screen – King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is released in the UK on 19 May 2017.