Greece: The birthplace of the Olympic Games, theater and western civilization. This historically rich country is also one of the most picturesque places in the world. When scouting in Greece, most moviemakers have veered toward the beautiful Greek Islands, which are scattered about the Aegean and Ionian Seas within the vast Mediterranean. In total, there are 6,000 of these islands, only 227 of which are inhabited. Popular destinations and filming locations include: Mykonos, a rocky island covered with blue and white buildings and signature windmills, and Santorini, which sits on a mountain 350 meters above sea level and is considered to be one of the best places in the world to watch the sunset.
With the beautiful and varied scenery it’s a mystery why more moviemakers haven’t leapt at the opportunity to film on the Greek Islands. It could be partly due to the fact that many of these idyllic spots are only accessible by ferry, which could make transporting a film crew pricey and difficult. Other challenges may also arise while attempting to film on land surrounded by water, as noted by the director of the new musical Mamma Mia!, who shot on-location at a few select islands.
“You have to be prepared to abandon all your best-laid plans,” director Phyllida Lloyd says of scouting the 21 island destinations suggested for Mamma Mia! “We fell in love with some of these locations quite a long time ago. Then, suddenly, you find that your little beach has been eaten up by surf and you’ve got to pick up sticks and dash into the woods and do something different. You just have to be absolutely prepared for anything.”
Mamma Mia!, the popular crowd-pleasing spectacle that uses ABBA songs for its soundtrack, tells the story of a bride-to-be’s (Amanda Seyfried) search for the father she has never known. Along with cast members Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Julie Walters, the crew ended up filming mostly on the lush island of Skopelos, wherein more than 50 percent of its land is covered by forest—creating a whole other dimension to the staged-musical.
“Mamma Mia! was always a movie,” Lloyd notes. “It’s set on location on a magical island. In many ways, it was bursting to get off the stage and into the cinema. It has just leapt out.”
Other movies that have ventured into Greek territory:
Zorba The Greek (1964)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Summer Lovers (1982)
The Bourne Identity (2002)
Lara Kraft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2008)
For more information on using the locations of ancient and modern Greece, visit www.filmgreece.com.