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May 4, 2010

 

Following the box office success of Clash of the Titans, which shot at Dinorwig Quarry and Llanddwyn Beach in North Wales, the new feature version of Robin Hood will be hitting the big screen on May 12th following its opening at the Cannes Film Festival. Shot on location in Pembrokeshire, the film sees Director Ridley Scott pairing once again with actor Russell Crowe for an epic re-working of the traditional Robin Hood tale.

Robin Hood’s Supervising Location Manager, Bill Darby, first contacted the Wales Screen Commission with the project in the autumn of 2007. Having scouted a number of Castles throughout Wales including Caerphilly, Pembroke and Tretower Court, the production settled on their favourite; Caernarfon Castle in North Wales. The initial plans were to use the castle as a backdrop and to construct a market; and medieval London street scenes outside the castle walls. Unfortunately due to budget constraints, the decision was made to relocate to Bourne Wood near Shepperton Studios and build the castle as a set instead.

Bill Darby is no stranger to Wales having location managed a number of big budget productions that have shot here. In First Knight, starring Richard Gere and Sean Connery, Trawsfynydd in North Wales was transformed into the magical realm of Camelot. He also doubled the Brecon Beacons for the Russian Urals in King Arthur which featured Clive Owen, Kiera Knightley and Ioan Gruffudd.

Bill Darby commented: “Wales is great. I love filming there, and everyone loves seeing a film unit. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences in Wales. I would recommend that any film company coming to shoot in the UK looks at Wales because it offers a huge variety of locations and has a great support mechanism.”

The WSC continued to provide support for the production while they scouted for a coastal location for the film’s climactic battle scene. Morfa Bychan in North Wales and various parts of the Pembrokeshire Coast were recce’d in a helicopter by the Director Ridley Scott. The WSC assisted with further scouting and recces offering detailed local knowledge and supplying images and location suggestions.

Once the beach of Freshwater West was earmarked as the filming location, the WSC worked closely with the production’s Unit Manager, Steve Hart to gain all the relevant permissions; to re-route footpaths and to arrange a road closure. Gaining permission for a road closure was a key factor in securing the filming for the region. As the WSC is part of the Welsh Assembly Government, we were able to facilitate discussions between the production, the Welsh Assembly Government’s Highways Department, Pembrokeshire County Council and the Police ensuring that the road closures and the filming could go ahead.

Originally the filming was scheduled for only eight days, but by the time the productions had finalised their plans they’d decided to extend the shoot and spent five weeks in May and June 2009 shooting at Freshwater West and the nearby Castlemartin Army Training Estate. The sheer size of the production was epic with close to 1200 people involved, including 600 extras, 125 horses and horsemen, and over 300 crew. The WSC strives to ensure that as many local people and companies as possible are used on a production whether as crew, trainees, extras or facility companies. Steve Hart had the unenviable task of organising the unit bases which housed wardrobe, stunt departments, armouries, parking areas, stables, production offices, catering, security as well as keeping an eye on the actual shoot.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure and Tourism, Rob Lewis commented:

“Before the film hits the big screen, we have already benefited. And apart from the obvious spin-offs, it also provided work for several hundred local people employed as extras who, I am sure, are eagerly anticipating the launch of the film.”

The main location itself was fraught with complications. The site had mixed ownership; there were a number of environmentally sensitive areas within a stone’s throw from the location and all set within a Coastal National Park. It’s a testament to the professionalism of the crew and the incredible co-operation and communication between all the parties involved especially Pembrokeshire County Council, the National Trust, the Angle Estate, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and the Countryside Council for Wales, that the shoot was such a success.

A spokesperson for the Wales Screen Commission said:

“This shoot in particular is a perfect example of how organisations can work together to minimise the impact of filming on both the local environment and to minimise disruption for local residents while still maximising the economic impact on the area.”