Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6) stars as Vlad the Impaler in Universal’s new big budget horror-fantasy- action flick, Dracula Untold (released today in UK cinemas). The movie follows the pre-story of the Prince of Darkness, and takes inspiration from the real 15th-century Transylvanian prince, who was taken hostage as a teenager by Ottoman Turks and trained in combat.
“[Dracula Untold] is unique within the Dracula mythology,” explains first time director Gary Shore, who chose to shoot his high-octane movie in Game of Thrones territory. In Northern Ireland, not far from where he grew up (in the Republic of Ireland) “the natural landscape of the environment was perfect,” explains Shore, “the Jurassic rocks on the coastline just spectacular, it’s quite unique. Between them and the protected forest areas, there was so much range we could use when shooting. The reason we didn’t shoot in more locations was because we didn’t need to.” He explains where we can visit scenes from the movie, and reveals secrets from filming…
The world famous Causeway stones double as a fictional mountain in Transylvania. With a little CGI help, this is where Vlad finds the helmet of a Turk in the water. “They’re on the hunt to try and find where these Turks are,” explains Shore. “I wanted the mountain itself to feel more fantastical, and have a different DNA from any regular mountain, so Giant’s Causeway presented a great opportunity… I never thought I would get the chance to shoot a film here.” While many productions would have choses as secluded, calm spot and added effect later, Shore contended with the wind and ocean. “I wanted the feel of the Causeway,” he says. “We shot there for a day by these massive waves. The sun came out during the shoot and it was just spectacular,” remembers Shore. “The hexagonal shapes of these 15 million year old stones are an incredible sight. Also for me, it was a tip of the hat to Devil’s Mountain, which featured in Close Encounters.”
Known as a key filming spot for Game of Thrones, Shore knew this area long before HBO’s fantasy series came about. “They shoot a lot of the Game of Thrones series here, so people might recognise it. I certainly recognised locations from Game of Thrones season four, but it’s such a big area and there’s loads of opportunities for hiking and camping, and climbing,” says Shore. “We were able to shoot a number of scenes in this beautiful forest,” he continues. “Particularly this one scene where the Janissaries attack Vlad’s people and Vlad. We were here for about four nights shooting under forest canopy, we ended up going in and making it our own for a few days, it was a lovely experience,” says the director.
The Italian Garden at this National Trust site played the grounds of Dracula’s castle, yet you may only see snippets of this great site in the final movie. “We initially shot the opening of the film at Mount Stewart. But sadly, most of it ended up on the cutting room floor [and will likely feature in deleted scenes] – but it is a stunning location,” urges Shore. “We shot there for a day and went to the spectacular gardens open to the public. However, the beautiful kind of circled rose area in the garden is in the film, but only very briefly in a dream sequence. It’s a place with a lot of history, a lot of world leaders, dignitaries and politicians would go there and party back in the day. I’m sure the walls could tell a few stories,” he laughs.
Divis and the Black Mountain
Situated in the heart of the Belfast Hills, this spectacular archaeological landscape is not only home to atmospheric stone tracks, walkways and varied wildlife, it was also home to Luke Evans and the film crew of Dracula Untold, for a few days at least. “Divis Mountain was a very wild place,” says Shore. “We spent a lot of time trying to build a pathway across the mountain that the horses and carriages could run over,” he explains. “When we were shooting up there it was spectacular, it was like shooting a western and I loved it, very much. The only indication of modernity was a couple of radio towers in the background; other than that we were just looking at the cows,” says Shore. “People can go walking around here, when we were shooting Gerry Adams was walking his dog, he came past and said hello to some of production team.”
“Vlad and his brutes attack a Turkish camp in this abandoned quarry in the movie,” says Shore. “It’s not the prettiest of sites, but I love the manmade environment. It was incredible when we shot here because we were shooting within a cloud, the cloud formation had just come down, we arrived there in the morning and began shooting the climax of the movie in this big Turkish camp – you couldn’t see five metres ahead of you, it was just pure fog and clouds. It ended up working to our advantage because it gave us that mood and tone that something bad could happen,” says director Shore. “It turned out looking spectacular and I’m glad to say – pretty much everything you see on screen is what we shot there, it’s a truly spectacular place.”