International spy thriller The Little Drummer Girl is a tightly plotted tale of terrorism, infiltration and manipulation set in the last days of the 1970s, as an ambitious English actress finds herself sucked into the undercover world of espionage.
As well as sending us back in time, the story also takes us all over the world: Greece, London, Austria, Germany, Yugoslavia, Israel and Palestine play starring roles.
So where was it filmed? Here’s all the information you need to know:
Where were the Acropolis scenes filmed?
Incredibly, The Little Drummer Girl was given permission to film at the actual Acropolis in Greece. This was the first ever night shoot to happen at the Acropolis, and the first time in the monument’s 2500-year history that anyone had been allowed to fly a drone overhead.
The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel with huge historical significance. Located on a rocky outcrop above the Greek capital, it encompasses the remains of several ancient buildings – most famously the Parthenon, but also the Temple of Athena Nike. Although the site dates back to the fourth millennium BC, the buildings and ruins we can see today were built under statesman Pericles in the fifth century BC.
“That was the most unbelievable evening of my entire life,” Florence Pugh said. “It was a night shoot so we were there from sunset to sunrise, and Alex [Skarsgård] and I were just so giddy and excited.”
“It was insane, it really was,” Skarsgård agreed. “To be there overlooking Athens as the sun set, and shoot all night… and then to see the sun rise eight or 10 hours later over Athens from the temple. You can’t beat that, it’s the most beautiful location in the world. It was a very special night and the energy was extraordinary out there because everyone looked at each other like, ‘We’ll never forget this, and we’ll never top it either.'”
But the shoot almost didn’t happen.
Greece’s Central Archaeological Council initially put the production in jeopardy after rejecting production company The Ink Factory’s application to film at key historical sites, including the Acropolis. However, the dispute went up to the highest levels of Greek government and a second application was thankfully approved.
Skarsgård has admitted to being skeptical that they would ever be allowed to shoot at the Acropolis, even though the scene was in the original script. “When they say, ‘We might do it,’ that often means ‘no, it’s not going to happen,'” he explained.
“I assumed this would be green screen, or we’d be on a little hill and it would be like a green screen, because they hadn’t approved a film crew up there in seven years, so the odds were against us for sure. But our producers did a hell of a job negotiating and trying to explain what we were trying to do and that we were going to be respectful and that we were going to portray it in a way to highlight the beauty of it – not that it needs any highlighting, but that we were going to show it in the right way.
“I hope they’re happy with it, but when you read a scene like that, it’s like, “Oh, that would be cool – but it’s not going to happen!” They actually did it, which was wonderful.”
Was The Little Drummer Girl filmed in Germany?
Actually, no. The German (and Austrian) scenes were primarily filmed in the Czech Republic. That’s where author John Le Carré joined the cast to film his cameo, playing a German-speaking waiter.
Skarsgård told us: “Mr Le Carré showed up in the Czech Republic and served me coffee in a scene – he plays a waiter in a scene – and what a treat to spend a day with him on set.”
When production designer Maria Djurkovic went looking for 1979 period locations in Germany, she was advised to consider Budapest or Prague instead, as she told BT. She struck gold in Prague, with 70s-era architecture serving as the ideal backdrop.
Where was The Little Drummer Girl filmed in Greece?
Much of the novel is set in Greece, and so a large portion of filming took place in Greece’s capital city, Athens, and in nearby towns and villages.
Charlie and Becker first cross paths in Naxos, Greece, an island in the South Aegean with a healthy tourism industry. But all the scenes set in Naxos were actually shot at the beach town of Kineta on the mainland – a quiet resort about an hour away from Athens.
The British-US co-production spent 24 days filming on location in Greece, with one key scene taking them to Cape Sounion. Located about 70km from Athens, Sounion is home to the Temple of Poseidon, one of the major monuments from the Golden Age of Athens. The temple was constructed in 444-440 BC under the statesman Pericles, and although it was destroyed nine centuries later by invading troops, some of the columns still stand amidst the ruins.
The Little Drummer Girl is a global tale that spans a huge number of countries and cities, but the production team realised they could use Greece as a stand-in for a number of different locations.
Simon Cornwell, co-CEO at The Ink Factory, remarked, “We were able to shoot not only extraordinary scenes set in Greece, but also scenes set in Lebanon, Israel, Yugoslavia (as it was then) and Rome.”
The Nikaia neighbourhood in Athens was used as a stand-in for Palestine, while nearby coastal town of Elefsina was used to double as Lebanon.
Where were the English scenes filmed?
Charlie’s story begins in the UK, at the Red Dragon Theatre where she and her thespian friends are putting on a performance. Appropriately, the production team also chose to film certain scenes in the UK, making use of the streets of London and locations in Oxfordshire.
According to IMDb, The Little Drummer Girl was partly shot at Oxfordshire’s Carmel College, an abandoned orthodox Jewish boarding school that shut its doors in 1997.
The Little Drummer Girl airs on Sundays at 9pm on BBC1
This article was originally published on 26 October 2018