The story showcases larger-than-life battles as it follows Hercules, the powerful mythical Greek son of Zeus who turns his back on the gods. Featuring cinematography by Dante Spinotti, ASC (Public Enemies, X-Men: The Last Stand), Hercules appropriately stars the modern-day titan Dwayne Johnson.
The film’s epic battle scenes were shot in Hungary with secondary locations in Croatia, and Veteran Location Manager Terry Blyther found the perfect mythical landscapes. After working in television and on London-based features, Blyther is known as a “battle location manager” due to his work all over the world on high-caliber action films like Gladiator, The Mummy and Clash of the Titans. For Hercules, the job required building a long-term village. The production crew built a substantial road structure that gave access to the remote valley location from the Four Seasons Hotel in Hungary. “Our early research tried to place ‘the village’ in a practical, accessible valley close to Budapest and the hotel structure with practicality for contractors in order to build and the crew to shoot within a given journey time,” Blyther explains. The same site provided two great battle locations conceived by Production Designer Jean Vincent Puzos. In the end, the landscaping of the valley with CGI enhancements created the perfect location.
Keeping the production crew near the one valley site also proved very cost effective. Other Hungary locations considered for Hercules included army training camps and remote forests, but practical needs demanded housing and servicing over 1,000 crew and cast members as well as 200 horses. Blyther’s greatest challenge was keeping the director and producers happy. “A location sometimes is only as good as its practical access to hotels,” says Blyther. “Moving a crew to several sites can be costly and has an impact on a filming schedule.” Ultimately, the studio needed to keep all locations close to Budapest. While this limited the director’s creative possibilities, the production and location crew worked hard to find locations that would work out perfectly.
Blyther recalls one memorable moment while watching a battle scene from a high ridge over the location. “Watching 500 crew, 500 extras and 200 horse and chariots pounding their way through a valley that you have found, contracted and serviced is a great feeling,” he enthuses. “Then riding a quad bike around the same lonely battle site after everyone has left in the late evening, picking up the trash that everyone has left throughout the day is also a great feeling. Welcome to the world of the location manager.”
After working on Hercules and other blockbuster films, Blyther has some tips for his fellow location professionals. “Think big!” he says. “No one is going to thank you later for underplaying your approach to large costumed-crowd logistics and large-scale battle sites. Of course, you have the responsibility to budget correctly. Work closely with your local service company, and never be afraid to seek advice from other old battle-weary location managers.” Blyther utilized key relationships while working in Hungary. “The Budapest authorities are great and very positive,” he attests. “Working with environmental groups is always a challenge, but in Budapest a lot of work [in] forming relationships across the scale has been achieved by the local service company Mid Atlantic [Films], formed by Adam Goodman and Howard Ellis. They offer a very experienced approach to all filmmakers.... Their recent credits and achievements have placed Budapest and Hungary at the very top level of positive filmmaking cities.”