As we’ve previously discussed, the places where your favorite movies and TV shows were filmed can have more interesting histories and darker secrets than anything you ever saw on screen (this goes double if you’re watching a Johnny Depp movie, since “Johnny Depp shot a movie here” already counts as a dark secret). In fact, even some dumb ol’ blockbusters have potentially Oscar-worthy tales hidden in the scenery — and, unlike most “based on a true story” movies and shows, these are completely true. So, let’s take another look, shall we?
#7. Game Of Thrones — King’s Landing Was The Site Of A Horrific War Crime In The ’90s
Game Of Thrones is the most popular show on television that gets people simultaneously aroused and interested in the complexities of politics (the second-most popular being House Of Cards). That said, it does have another thing going for it: wholesale slaughter. Which is fitting, considering that it’s largely filmed in the place where this went down:
Not a still from the show; this is the location 25 years (or five books) ago.
Although it’s yet to make an appearance on the most-depressing “Only ’90s Kids Will Remember This” nostalgisticle, the Siege of Dubrovnik was a hideous footnote in the messy divorce been Croatia and Yugoslavia, which resulted in several war crimes charges against some of the military leaders involved. In 1991, the city was surrounded by artillery situated on the overlooking foothills and shelled for three whole months. By some miracle, “only” less than a hundred civilians were killed during the ordeal, although the bombardment blew significant parts of the city back to the Middle Ages — making it the perfect setting for the escapades of the Stark family and the gang.
Next time you’re watching the show, look out for these locations. Firstly, there’s Pile Harbor, site of the epic Battle of the Blackwater, where the waters were set alight thanks to the sheer volume of fuel from its destroyed boats.
Setting fire to the water does sound like some George R.R. Martin shit.
The streets where Cersei walks from the Great Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep? (Don’t lie. You’ve still got the scene on your DVR.) They were shelled into oblivion.
And no CGI body doubles were involved, sadly.
Then there’s the arena where the infamous duel between Gregor Clegane and Oberyn Martell takes place. In a past life, that was the waterfront seating area of a now-destroyed, still-abandoned hotel.
This explains why they got such poor WiFi.
Even Trsteno Arboretum, the gardens that the show’s characters are apparently unable to visit without conspiring to kill somebody, were originally burned almost to the ground by gunboats and looted.
Oddly enough, the city’s ancient walls stood up to the constant artillery better than many of the modern fortifications. Chances are, however, they won’t be looking too good after Season 7: Dragonpocalypse.
#6. Jurassic World — Filmed In A Derelict Post-Katrina New Orleans Theme Park
Jurassic World is the tale of what happens when Mother Nature decides to drop in on your lovely family day out and break shit up in the most horrific way possible, leaving you with nothing to do but run and hide. Oddly enough, that’s also the story behind the abandoned flood-damaged theme park where the movie was filmed, although there’s still no word on whether its owners were dumb enough to rebuild three goddamn times after a series of progressively-worse disasters.
In order to capture the atmosphere of a doomed theme park, the makers of Jurassic World elected to film in the remnants of Six Flags, New Orleans. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the park never reopened, because … um, well …
The Sea World franchise license was too expensive.
But, since the visitors to Jurassic World weren’t coming for the roller coasters, the filmmakers couldn’t film in the midst of the park and instead elected to build a massive sound stage on the outskirts to simulate the park’s streets — as you might remember from the scene where some people become prehistoric-bird food.
In this universe, Kanye accuses George Bush of not caring about black pteranodon victims.
Besides providing suitable ambiance, the park’s location meant that no one would be able to sneak a peek at the sets — they could probably have gotten away with putting real dinosaurs in there. It was the perfect shooting location … you know, if it wasn’t for all the real nature that tried to interrupt their film. For protection from the area’s population of wild pigs, alligators, and snakes, the crew had to have a team of animal experts around just to make sure that things didn’t get too real. We’re assuming the team included at least one chaos theorist to wax philosophical and remove his shirt.
Speaking of things getting too real, it’s a shame that the movie didn’t make use of one of the park’s old rides.
#5. Skyfall — A Hitler-Exploding Superweapon Was Tested At Skyfall Lodge
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the finale of Skyfall was filmed in Scotland. After all, that’s where the scene is set, there’s that now-iconic road where you briefly see 007 and M doing it while no one’s watching (we might have imagined this), and — most importantly — it’s the lifeless void of mud and heather that makes the rest of the country’s scenery look so beautiful. Except, not. It was actually filmed on Hankley Common in the South of England. Also, sorry to break your heart, but the vast majority of Britain resembles a mud apocalypse with tearooms.
It’s true that every other car is an Aston Martin, though.
However, this isn’t Hankley Common’s only claim to fame when it comes to derring-do. During the second World War, it was used to test the Churchill AVRE Double Onion: a superweapon designed to gently stroll through the Atlantic wall on a mixture of nothing more than whiskey, bravado, and a shit-ton of explosives. For some reason, history doesn’t record whether it was equipped with an ejector seat or laser guns, so we’ll do the sensible thing and assume that, yes, it was.
An AVRE tank during its Rocky-esque training routine.
The AVRE was designed to work in the same way as a breaching charge. Alongside a normal cannon, the tank was equipped with a gigantic plate on its front. When it reached an enemy fortification, its drivers would jump out, affix explosives to the plate, rest it against the object that they didn’t want to exist anymore, and … boom. This might sound like a novel form of suicide, but the plate was designed in such a way that the force of the blast was channeled against the wall, reducing it to rubble. The drivers, meanwhile, would survive — shaken, not disintegrated.
So, how do you test a tank designed to blow up walls? Simple. You build a wall of reinforced concrete and set the damn thing loose.
It shares Bond’s tact and tenderness when it comes to penetrating things.
At the same test range, the tank’s main gun was used to clear a minefield and blow a hole in the same wall. In fact, the amount of explosives used to test this thing created so much fracas that a nearby neighbor reported her ceiling collapsing. That’s right; for all their pomp and formality, the British designed a weapon capable of simulating the experience of getting invaded by KISS before that was even a thing.
#4. Star Wars: Episode I — The Villains Are Caught In The Palace Where The Nazis Surrendered
Believe it or not, not every location in Episode I was created by some guy with glasses at a computer. Take the Palace of Caserta, which (as we’ve mentioned before) doubled as Theed Royal Palace — i.e., the place where the racist-stereotype bad guys were captured, thus ending the galaxy’s most tedious conflict.
“Viceroy, you’re arrested for pulling all of the bullshit.”
“Yep, that’s me.”
In other words, not at all like how the palace played a hand in ending the granddaddy of them all, World War II.
During the war, Caserta Palace was the equivalent of a child stuck in a super-messy custody battle between the Axis and the Allies. That is, until 1943, when the Allies finally managed to seize control for good and established it as Allied High Command for the Mediterranean. Cue two years of good ol’ fashioned ass-kickings planned in its halls, jeeps racing up and down its well-maintained terraces, and a whole battalion of soldiers asking where the pretty local girls at.
OK, they might have used CGI here.
In May 1945, however, the palace played host to a couple of extra special guests: a diplomatic team who had been sent to negotiate Germany’s exit from the war with as much of their dignity intact as possible. In hindsight, they should have realized that this wasn’t going to happen, what with their leader … indisposed and their military not looking that much better. With nothing remaining in the way of bargaining chips, the surrender was signed, thus ending the war in Italy. Cue the John Williams!
It was exactly as awkward as a middle school dance.
#3. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade — Berlin Airport Was Filmed On A Radioactive San Francisco Island
In the midst of San Francisco Bay, there’s the overly hyperbolically named Treasure Island: a man-made island that, along with providing locations for a surprising number of Robin Williams movies (including Flubber, Patch Adams, and Bicentennial Man), was also the setting for Berlin Airport in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.
We’d invite you to go and check it out for yourselves, but … um, we wouldn’t recommend it on account of all the radiation.
Sure. Radiation. Not a Nazi curse. Gotcha.
See, after its use as a location for a 1939 World’s Fair, the island was handed over to the U.S. Navy for use as a shipyard and training school — called the Nuclear War Academy, which sounds fucking awesome. Unfortunately, this also involved students being handed samples of radioactive materials such as radium, plutonium, and caesium-137 because … we don’t know, they were preparing for scavenging the battlefields of the future? Honestly, it’s really unclear.
As part of their training, the students were also expected to know how to clean a ship of radioactive contamination. When a real contaminated ship wasn’t available, however, they’d just spray a test one (codenamed USS Pandemonium) with radioactive material and scrub it down good. Shit, we’re surprised that they didn’t just go whole hog and have them spray each other in their underwear.
This might also be the inspiration for Top Gun.
Eventually, the military realized that this stuff might be a tad dangerous and started to clamp down on the antics of National Lampoon’s Mutated Animal House. Well, sort of. The radioactive samples used in the classes were confiscated and disposed of using the scientific method of burying them in pits. Also, they forgot to mark out where the pits were. Or tell anyone about them.
When the Navy decided to hand the site back over in 2007, they embarked on a massive clean-up operation that, shock horror, discovered traces of radiation all over the island. In the years following the introduction of concepts such as “safety” and “not fucking with nuclear materials,” housing and industry had taken over the island, the construction of which had tracked radiation all over the place. To this day, some areas of the island are still off limits to those who don’t want their faces to end up like the bad guy’s at the end of Raiders.
#2. Full Metal Jacket — Vietnam Was Re-Created In A (Toxic As Hell) Abandoned Gasworks In London
For the second half of Full Metal Jacket — the part that no one remembers — Stanley Kubrick needed a location that perfectly encapsulated the destruction and chaos and death and grime of a war-struck Hue, Vietnam. His choice was … London. More precisely, an abandoned industrial complex situated just a hair’s breadth away from the main city. All his team had to do was knock holes into a couple of walls, and voila.
The usual London fog came in pretty handy, too.
Unsurprisingly, using an ex-industrial site as the location for a movie comes with its own problems … namely, the obscene amount of chemical detritus just haphazardly lying about. Alongside the constant threat of Kubrick doing his trademark thing to their fear receptors, the cast and crew had to contend with buildings littered with asbestos, Mordor-esque air contamination, and the occasional puddle of chemical waste dribbling across the landscape.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the site itself was overlooked by a gigantic pile of industrial waste created during its life as a gas processing plant. This pile of slag, known affectionately to the locals as the Beckton Alps, was made up of a toxic mixture of lime, sulfuric acid, creosote, and tar. After filming was completed, Kubrick abandoned the site as is, probably figuring that a population who put up with this bullshit wouldn’t mind a building complex littered with bullet holes, craters, and signs asking them to buy Vietnamese.
This confused the hell out of anyone who woke up here after a heavy night out.
#1. E.T. — Elliott’s House Is Right By The Site Of A WWII Japanese Internment Camp
E.T. was better fed, though.
After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government declared that the region’s 100,000-plus Japanese-Americans were to be interned, lest they turn saboteur for the homeland. (You might have heard similar proposals in modern politics recently.) One of these camps was Tuna Canyon Detention Station, a repurposed relief camp situated in the foothills of Tujunga, a suburb of Los Angeles. From 1941 to 1943, the camp played host to around 1,500 “enemy combatants,” many of whom were ordinary civilians such as teachers and religious leaders. In other words, the people most likely to conduct an uprising, obviously.
This happened before there was even an “Asians all know martial arts” stereotype.
As for the facilities, they ranged from “comfortable for an unconstitutional prison camp” to “Steve McQueen wouldn’t stand for this shit.” There were medical facilities, sleeping quarters, barracks, a rudimentary school (you thought kids got a pass?), and a barbershop. On the other hand, they had to deal with frequent interrogations, impossible-to-complete “loyalty questionnaires,” and, oh right, being torn apart from their families to live inside a machine gun-surrounded, lawyer-free, state-sanctioned prison. Fortunately, many didn’t have to deal with these conditions for long, because they were released … and transferred to a larger, shittier camp.
The camp was eventually closed in 1943 — not because anyone came to their senses, mind, but probably because they ran out of people to imprison. You can’t actually visit the remains of the camp, because it was torn down, as dirty little secrets tend to be, and replaced by a golf course.
When Adam isn’t slagging off his beloved England for cheap jokes and dirty, dirty money, he reminisces on Twitter about his own shady past. He also has an email address, where you can contact him with compliments/complaints/something else that begins with C.
Read more: www.cracked.com