Svínafellsjökull Glacier (dreamstime_m_6140003)
List 16 April

5 worldwide film set substitutes

Jo Price discovers fantastic places around the globe that stood in for other not-so-suitable destinations in our favourite movies

There are some amazing places that surrendered taking the credit and appeared in major blockbusters posing as somewhere else. They doubled up to dupe cinema-goers but did you spot them at the time?

1. Almeria, Spain, stood in for south-west USA

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Almeria has been dubbed Spain’s “best kept secret” of Andalusia Province for its unspoiled nature and secret hideaways – that is until the Hollywood film crew arrived. In the 1960s, Sergio Leone discovered this hidden gem and since then it has become the backdrop of numerous “spaghetti westerns” and sought out by other filmmakers.

Almeria offered directors a geographical hotspot in Andalusia. The region combines the Sierra Nevada Nature Park, the Tabernas Desert and the spectacular beaches of the Cabo de Gata Nature Park.

Lights, camera, action: Other film footage shot in Almeria includes Cleopatra, King of Kings and Lawrence of Arabia

2. Svínafellsjökull Glacier, Iceland, stood in for the Himalayas

Batman Begins

The training scene in the movie Batman Begins was filmed on the Svínafellsjökull Glacier (Pig Mountain Glacier) in Iceland. Christian Bale (Batman) is mentored by Henri Ducard and Ra's Al Ghul’s League of Shadows in the art of stealth and mortal combat within a freezing, Bhutanese, mountain backdrop – so the film would have you believe.

Svínafellsjökull is a breathtaking outlet glacier of the Vatnajökull glacier and can be visited and explored through organised tours.

3. Fort Ricasoli, Malta, stood in for ancient Rome


Ridley Scott’s epic blockbuster shot the scenes of ancient Rome over a period of 19 weeks in Fort Ricasoli, Malta. This massive fortress was considered an impregnable stronghold in its heyday. It occupies the headland at the south entrance of Grand Harbour and was built at the expense of the Italian Knight Giovanni Francesco Ricasoli.

Scott used the Maltese Fort as the backdrop to a set that depicted bustling Roman life. To represent Rome’s Colosseum, a replica was built on the island to a height of 52ft. The other two-thirds of the remaining height were added digitally.

Lights, camera, action: Other film footage shot in Fort Ricasoli include Troy

4. Mount Taranaki, New Zealand, stood in for Mount Fuji

The Last Samurai

This active strato-volcano officially has two names according to the New Zealand Geographic Board, Mount Taranaki and Mount Egmont. It stands at 2,518m and is situated on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

It closely resembles Mount Fuji and almost appears as a perfectly symmetrical cone that rises out of green pastureland. The views extend across the North Island. There you can see the three volcanoes of Tongariro National Park and a dense forested depression that contains the Whanganui River.

5. Helsinki stood in for Moscow

Gorky Park

Due to the filming taking place during the Cold War and the film crew being denied access to Russia, Helsinki became the director’s choice. Its popular Kaisaniemi Park was selected to resemble Gorky Park, the site of a murder scene in the film.

Kaisaniemi Park is situated at the centre of this Finnish city, in the region of Kluuvi. In addition to its public spaces, Helsinki offers ice swimming, pure and simple cuisine and has been chosen as World Design Capital for the year 2012.

Lights, camera, action: Other film footage shot in Helsinki includes The Kremlin Letter

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