When Roger Yuan, our fight choreographer and Chukchi tracker, suggested we might be able to film the teaser in his friend John's garden, I was sceptical, until I discovered that the John in question is John Slazenger and his garden is the Powerscourt estate, which occupies what seems to be about half of County Wicklow.
Eamon and I went on a preliminary recce last Friday with Roger and Francis Taaffe, a production designer who has been helping us. There is no shortage of woods on the estate, both deciduous and piney which, provided the wandering gangs of boy scouts aren't camping there, should give us plenty of options for the forest footage. My main concerns were getting a high rocky mountain location and finding a Gulag bunk-house interior.
I flagged my concerns to John and he took us to the famous waterfall. His first impulse was to send us up one of the pathways that climb away from the fall itself and up towards the top. Ten yards along the path I knew it was a mistake. My own first impulse was to head for the base of the waterfall and the rocks that I loved leaping around when I was a child. John graciously acceded to my impulse and took us down there, with dire warnings about the vast quantities of visitors who would bother us, not to mention the even vaster quantities of flying insects. As soon as we got there, Roger started leaping around rocks himself, and we realised we had solved one of our problems. We just have to get the shots we need before the gates open to the public at half past nine on the day of the shoot.
I had no idea what John had in mind for the Gulag itself. You can't get much further from the thrown-together, prison camp construction of the Gulags than the sumptuous eighteenth-century Palladian opulence of Powerscourt. On top of that, the Showtime mega-series 'The Tudors' is using Powerscourt as one of its locations at the moment.
John drove us up to a group of dependencies a couple of hundred yards from the main house, that make up the old farm. In the yard a sizeable swing-gang were in the process of building a massive scaffold for the filming of four Tudor executions next week. We stepped over the pre-sawn four-by-two, through some rusting doors and into a derilict farm building that was a dead ringer for Gulag bunk-houses I have seen in photos. Thus with very little effort second of our problems was solved.
We'll be going back with DP Peter Robertson next week to nail things down, but the question of whether Powerscourt can double as a Gulag is now well and truly answered.