Ro Insider
In the limelight: Romanian travel destinations in films

Last year, Romania introduced a state aid scheme for the film industry, hoping to fashion itself into a more attractive destination for international productions. Under the scheme, a part of the production costs are covered if the movie helps promote a geographical area or city in Romania to tourists. Until the measure starts bearing fruit, we look at some of the films that made use of some of the most attractive locations in the country to offer some suggestions for a film-themed travel list.

Râșnov – Brașov

The picturesque landscapes around Brașov, and particularly Râșnov, provided the setting for Cold Mountain, the film starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Natalie Portman, and Donald Sutherland. Directed by Anthony Minghella, the 2003 film is based on the novel of Charles Frazier.

The producers first looked at North Carolina in an attempt to find the needed wild nature spot but the Carpathians ended up providing the background of the film. Producer Iain Smith traveled to Transylvania and found the landscape to be similar to the “untouched” North Carolina. The director also came to Romania and agreed. “What we were impressed with was the incredible number, the wonderful density of the forests. Everything was covered in snow, very beautiful,” Minghella explained in a press release at that time. “We took a second trip to Romania in spring and we discovered that everything was perfect, the succession of seasons, everything captured that majestic impression in the novel,” he said.

Filming started in July 2002 close to the village of Potigrafu, near Bucharest, where a large farm was used for the battle scene in Petersburg, Virginia. Tranches were dug here, fortifications and even a field hospital were built on set. After Bucharest, filming moved near Poiana Braşov, close to Râşnov, where the film’s Black Cove Farm was built, a traditional 19th-century American farm. Other scenes were filmed in Zărneşti.

HBO's mini-series 

Hatfields & McCoys, starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, was also shot near Brasov, with the Carpathians standing in for the Appalachians.

Today, it’s the nature sets that are still welcoming visitors. Zărneşti can be a good spot to start exploring the Piatra Craiului Nature Park or stop by the Libearty bear sanctuary there. Similarly, visitors can wander through the surroundings of Râșnov, or visit the Peasant Citadel there, an example of a fortified medieval settlement. In Râșnov, film fans also have a festival to go every summer, while children will find a top attraction in Dino Park, a large, dinosaurs-themed park.  

Corvinilor Castle - Hunedoara

This Gothic-Renaissance castle in Hunedoara county served as a background for many productions which made use of the well-preserved construction, the wide spaces inside the edifice and the architecture itself. The castle is built on the site of an older fortification, on a rock above the Zlaști River. It is an imposing structure, featuring tall towers, bastions, an inner courtyard, and windows and balconies adorned with stone carvings. 

Corvinilor Castle in Hunedoara Photo by Paszczur01/ Wikipedia

In 2012, the castle was used as a setting for the horror comedy Fright Night 2, directed by Eduardo Rodriguez and produced by 20th Century Fox. The movie follows the adventures of a group of foreign students who come to Romania for a vacation, but have to deal with a vampire.

Ghost Rider 2, a 2011 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics antihero Ghost Rider, Dragonheart: Battle for the Heartfire, a 2017 fantasy adventure film, Singh Is Bliing, a 2015 Bollywood action comedy, were all partly shot at the castle, which was also a setting for various commercials. For instance, in 2017, American actors Jeffrey Dean Morgan, best known from TV series Grey’s Anatomy and The Walking Dead, and Aaron Eckhart shot a commercial there. More recently,the horror thriller The Nun was partly shot there.

Outside of the interest from film producers, the castle is worth a visit for being representative for the military architecture of 15th century South Eastern Europe. The Grand Palace is a French-inspired construction, unique in the Hungarian kingdom of the time, and illustrating the importance of the Hunyadi family. This spring, restoration works are set to begin at the castle, both on the inside and in the exterior yards.

Sinaia

The mountain city of Sinaia is the place where the country’s elite built beautiful properties at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Among them was musician George Enescu, whose house in Sinaia is now a museum. But the main attractions of the city remain the Peleș and Pelișor castle, some of the most visited castles in the country. A masterpiece of German Neo-Renaissance architecture, the Peleș Castle was built at the initiative of Romania’s first king, Carol I. It was a summer residence of the Romanian royal family until 1947.

The castle is showcased in the 2017 Netflix production A Christmas Prince, which was also filmed at the Bragadiru Palace, Cotroceni Museum and Medicine and Pharmacy University in Bucharest.

The castle also featured in the 2011 television film A Princess for Christmas, starring Roger Moore, Katie McGrath, and Sam Heughan, among others, and in the 2008 production The Brothers Bloom, starring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi, Maximilian Schell, and Robbie Coltrane.

Sinaia also attracted Francis Ford Coppola, who partly shot here his 2007 fantasy drama Youth without Youth, based on the novella of the same name by Romanian author and historian of religions Mircea Eliade. While in Romania, Coppola also filmed in Constanţa and in Piatra Neamț, a town in the northeastern part of the country, where the medieval princely court ensemble is one of the main tourist attractions.

After exhausting the options for walks through Sinaia, visitors can try a trip to Stâna Regală (Royal Sheep Yard), which can be reached on a former royal path through the woods that starts near the Peleș castle, another opportunity for impressive mountain views.

Transfăgărășan

The high-altitude road Transfăgărășan and its picturesque landscapes caught the attention of the producers of Ghost Rider 2. The superhero film, starring Nicholas Cage, is based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. A stand-in for Cage filmed several scenes on the segment between the entrance to the Argesului Gorges and the Vidraru dam. For the filming, the potholes on this segment were covered.

Transfăgărășan road Photo: Pexels.com

Transfăgărășan was built on the orders of Communist era dictator Nicolae Ceausescu between 1970 and 1974 to ensure a military strategic route through the mountains. It has a length of 90 km and reaches an altitude of 2,040 m.  It includes Romania’s longest road tunnel (887 meters).

British auto show Top Gear also filmed an episode on Transfăgărășan in 2009. The road is open during the summer months.

Sibiu

The old town of Sibiu is a favorite site of tourists travelling to this Transylvania city known for its Saxon heritage. The Brukenthal Museum, the oldest such institution in Romania, the Council Tower, a Museum of Pharmacy and the Evangelical Cathedral are just some of the many landmarks found in the perimeter of the city’s old town, also a film set from time to time.

A snapshot of Sibiu Photo: Pixabay

It was here that Nicholas Cage shot some scenes from Ghost Rider 2. In 2013, Bollywood star Salman Khan was in Sibiu to shoot several scenes of Jai Ho (Mental), and some of the locations were the Bridge of Lies, the Grand Square, the Huet Square and the open-air museum in Dumbrava Sibiului. Another Bollywood production, Spyder, was shot in Sibiu in 2017. More recently, the centuries-old Cârța monastery in Sibiu county was used as a set for the box office hit The Nun, the fifth movie in the Conjuring Universe franchise, starring Taissa Farmiga, Charlotte Hope, and Demián Bichir. Before, Costa Gavras’s 2002 film Amen, which examines the links between the Vatican and Nazi Germany, was partially shot in Sibiu, in addition to Bucharest.

Another reason to visit Sibiu this year? The region’s food delicacies take center stage as it holds the title of European Region of Gastronomy.

Sighișoara

The nearby Sighișoara, another Saxon burg in Transylvania, proved an interesting location for several film producers. Director Bogdan Dreyer (Bogdan Dumitrescu) shot part of his 2013 film A Farewell to Fools here. The film, starring Gérard Depardieu, Harvey Keitel and Laura Morante, was also shot in the village of Saschiz, one of the several in Transylvania hosting fortified churches.

More recently, The Wanderers, a Romanian co-production staring Armand Assante, was shot in Sighișoara. The film follows a vampire hunter and his companion, a journalist, as they travel to a reclusive village in Transylvania to investigate the mystery surrounding a strange event. The association with blood-thirsty creatures is not new to Sighișoara, the place where Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) is said to have been born. While vampire-themed tourism is present in Sighișoara, the town has much more to offer visitors, including the well preserved citadel and its many medieval towers, a legacy of the guilds active there, and a very popular, yearly medieval festival.

Bucharest

Romania’s capital provided a background for several films, featuring its landmarks or picturesque streets. The Parliament Palace was recently used in the filming of The Nun, while the Old Town is featured in The Expendables 3. The film brought Sylvester Stallone and Mel Gibson to Bucharest and some scenes were shot at the National Museum of Art of Romania (MNAR), a former royal residence that should be on the list of sites to visit for anyone interested in local art.

The People’s Palace, said to be the heaviest building in the world, is present in Costa Gavras’ Amen, a film which also showcases the House of the Free Press, a monument of Soviet architecture in northern Bucharest or Băneasa Railway Station, a royal train station until 1947, when the monarchy was abolished in Romania. The 2016 War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller and partly shot in Bucharest, features the Intercontinental Hotel, another landmark of the city, in addition to the People’s Palace.

MeanwhileOscar-nominated director Terry Gilliam shot The Zero Theorem in Bucharest. The 2013 film, starring Christoph Waltz, Lucas Hedges, Mélanie Thierry, and David Thewlis, tells the story of a computer scientist working on a formula to determine whether life holds any meaning.

In 2014, part of Paul Schrader’s film The Dying of the Light was shot in Bucharest, in addition to the facilities of Castle Studios. It was the second production in Romania for Schrader, the director of Taxi Driver, after filming Adam Resurrected here in 2007, and the second time for Nicolas Cage, after Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Outside of its recognizable buildings, the capital welcomes tourists to beautiful parks, Italian-style cafes, and interesting museums, as this New York Times article explained. More about Bucharest’s museums here.

[email protected]

(Opening photo: A scene from The Nun; photo source: thenunmovie.net)

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Ro Insider
In the limelight: Romanian travel destinations in films

Last year, Romania introduced a state aid scheme for the film industry, hoping to fashion itself into a more attractive destination for international productions. Under the scheme, a part of the production costs are covered if the movie helps promote a geographical area or city in Romania to tourists. Until the measure starts bearing fruit, we look at some of the films that made use of some of the most attractive locations in the country to offer some suggestions for a film-themed travel list.

Râșnov – Brașov

The picturesque landscapes around Brașov, and particularly Râșnov, provided the setting for Cold Mountain, the film starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Natalie Portman, and Donald Sutherland. Directed by Anthony Minghella, the 2003 film is based on the novel of Charles Frazier.

The producers first looked at North Carolina in an attempt to find the needed wild nature spot but the Carpathians ended up providing the background of the film. Producer Iain Smith traveled to Transylvania and found the landscape to be similar to the “untouched” North Carolina. The director also came to Romania and agreed. “What we were impressed with was the incredible number, the wonderful density of the forests. Everything was covered in snow, very beautiful,” Minghella explained in a press release at that time. “We took a second trip to Romania in spring and we discovered that everything was perfect, the succession of seasons, everything captured that majestic impression in the novel,” he said.

Filming started in July 2002 close to the village of Potigrafu, near Bucharest, where a large farm was used for the battle scene in Petersburg, Virginia. Tranches were dug here, fortifications and even a field hospital were built on set. After Bucharest, filming moved near Poiana Braşov, close to Râşnov, where the film’s Black Cove Farm was built, a traditional 19th-century American farm. Other scenes were filmed in Zărneşti.

HBO's mini-series 

Hatfields & McCoys, starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, was also shot near Brasov, with the Carpathians standing in for the Appalachians.

Today, it’s the nature sets that are still welcoming visitors. Zărneşti can be a good spot to start exploring the Piatra Craiului Nature Park or stop by the Libearty bear sanctuary there. Similarly, visitors can wander through the surroundings of Râșnov, or visit the Peasant Citadel there, an example of a fortified medieval settlement. In Râșnov, film fans also have a festival to go every summer, while children will find a top attraction in Dino Park, a large, dinosaurs-themed park.  

Corvinilor Castle - Hunedoara

This Gothic-Renaissance castle in Hunedoara county served as a background for many productions which made use of the well-preserved construction, the wide spaces inside the edifice and the architecture itself. The castle is built on the site of an older fortification, on a rock above the Zlaști River. It is an imposing structure, featuring tall towers, bastions, an inner courtyard, and windows and balconies adorned with stone carvings. 

Corvinilor Castle in Hunedoara Photo by Paszczur01/ Wikipedia

In 2012, the castle was used as a setting for the horror comedy Fright Night 2, directed by Eduardo Rodriguez and produced by 20th Century Fox. The movie follows the adventures of a group of foreign students who come to Romania for a vacation, but have to deal with a vampire.

Ghost Rider 2, a 2011 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics antihero Ghost Rider, Dragonheart: Battle for the Heartfire, a 2017 fantasy adventure film, Singh Is Bliing, a 2015 Bollywood action comedy, were all partly shot at the castle, which was also a setting for various commercials. For instance, in 2017, American actors Jeffrey Dean Morgan, best known from TV series Grey’s Anatomy and The Walking Dead, and Aaron Eckhart shot a commercial there. More recently,the horror thriller The Nun was partly shot there.

Outside of the interest from film producers, the castle is worth a visit for being representative for the military architecture of 15th century South Eastern Europe. The Grand Palace is a French-inspired construction, unique in the Hungarian kingdom of the time, and illustrating the importance of the Hunyadi family. This spring, restoration works are set to begin at the castle, both on the inside and in the exterior yards.

Sinaia

The mountain city of Sinaia is the place where the country’s elite built beautiful properties at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Among them was musician George Enescu, whose house in Sinaia is now a museum. But the main attractions of the city remain the Peleș and Pelișor castle, some of the most visited castles in the country. A masterpiece of German Neo-Renaissance architecture, the Peleș Castle was built at the initiative of Romania’s first king, Carol I. It was a summer residence of the Romanian royal family until 1947.

The castle is showcased in the 2017 Netflix production A Christmas Prince, which was also filmed at the Bragadiru Palace, Cotroceni Museum and Medicine and Pharmacy University in Bucharest.

The castle also featured in the 2011 television film A Princess for Christmas, starring Roger Moore, Katie McGrath, and Sam Heughan, among others, and in the 2008 production The Brothers Bloom, starring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi, Maximilian Schell, and Robbie Coltrane.

Sinaia also attracted Francis Ford Coppola, who partly shot here his 2007 fantasy drama Youth without Youth, based on the novella of the same name by Romanian author and historian of religions Mircea Eliade. While in Romania, Coppola also filmed in Constanţa and in Piatra Neamț, a town in the northeastern part of the country, where the medieval princely court ensemble is one of the main tourist attractions.

After exhausting the options for walks through Sinaia, visitors can try a trip to Stâna Regală (Royal Sheep Yard), which can be reached on a former royal path through the woods that starts near the Peleș castle, another opportunity for impressive mountain views.

Transfăgărășan

The high-altitude road Transfăgărășan and its picturesque landscapes caught the attention of the producers of Ghost Rider 2. The superhero film, starring Nicholas Cage, is based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. A stand-in for Cage filmed several scenes on the segment between the entrance to the Argesului Gorges and the Vidraru dam. For the filming, the potholes on this segment were covered.

Transfăgărășan road Photo: Pexels.com

Transfăgărășan was built on the orders of Communist era dictator Nicolae Ceausescu between 1970 and 1974 to ensure a military strategic route through the mountains. It has a length of 90 km and reaches an altitude of 2,040 m.  It includes Romania’s longest road tunnel (887 meters).

British auto show Top Gear also filmed an episode on Transfăgărășan in 2009. The road is open during the summer months.

Sibiu

The old town of Sibiu is a favorite site of tourists travelling to this Transylvania city known for its Saxon heritage. The Brukenthal Museum, the oldest such institution in Romania, the Council Tower, a Museum of Pharmacy and the Evangelical Cathedral are just some of the many landmarks found in the perimeter of the city’s old town, also a film set from time to time.

A snapshot of Sibiu Photo: Pixabay

It was here that Nicholas Cage shot some scenes from Ghost Rider 2. In 2013, Bollywood star Salman Khan was in Sibiu to shoot several scenes of Jai Ho (Mental), and some of the locations were the Bridge of Lies, the Grand Square, the Huet Square and the open-air museum in Dumbrava Sibiului. Another Bollywood production, Spyder, was shot in Sibiu in 2017. More recently, the centuries-old Cârța monastery in Sibiu county was used as a set for the box office hit The Nun, the fifth movie in the Conjuring Universe franchise, starring Taissa Farmiga, Charlotte Hope, and Demián Bichir. Before, Costa Gavras’s 2002 film Amen, which examines the links between the Vatican and Nazi Germany, was partially shot in Sibiu, in addition to Bucharest.

Another reason to visit Sibiu this year? The region’s food delicacies take center stage as it holds the title of European Region of Gastronomy.

Sighișoara

The nearby Sighișoara, another Saxon burg in Transylvania, proved an interesting location for several film producers. Director Bogdan Dreyer (Bogdan Dumitrescu) shot part of his 2013 film A Farewell to Fools here. The film, starring Gérard Depardieu, Harvey Keitel and Laura Morante, was also shot in the village of Saschiz, one of the several in Transylvania hosting fortified churches.

More recently, The Wanderers, a Romanian co-production staring Armand Assante, was shot in Sighișoara. The film follows a vampire hunter and his companion, a journalist, as they travel to a reclusive village in Transylvania to investigate the mystery surrounding a strange event. The association with blood-thirsty creatures is not new to Sighișoara, the place where Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) is said to have been born. While vampire-themed tourism is present in Sighișoara, the town has much more to offer visitors, including the well preserved citadel and its many medieval towers, a legacy of the guilds active there, and a very popular, yearly medieval festival.

Bucharest

Romania’s capital provided a background for several films, featuring its landmarks or picturesque streets. The Parliament Palace was recently used in the filming of The Nun, while the Old Town is featured in The Expendables 3. The film brought Sylvester Stallone and Mel Gibson to Bucharest and some scenes were shot at the National Museum of Art of Romania (MNAR), a former royal residence that should be on the list of sites to visit for anyone interested in local art.

The People’s Palace, said to be the heaviest building in the world, is present in Costa Gavras’ Amen, a film which also showcases the House of the Free Press, a monument of Soviet architecture in northern Bucharest or Băneasa Railway Station, a royal train station until 1947, when the monarchy was abolished in Romania. The 2016 War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller and partly shot in Bucharest, features the Intercontinental Hotel, another landmark of the city, in addition to the People’s Palace.

MeanwhileOscar-nominated director Terry Gilliam shot The Zero Theorem in Bucharest. The 2013 film, starring Christoph Waltz, Lucas Hedges, Mélanie Thierry, and David Thewlis, tells the story of a computer scientist working on a formula to determine whether life holds any meaning.

In 2014, part of Paul Schrader’s film The Dying of the Light was shot in Bucharest, in addition to the facilities of Castle Studios. It was the second production in Romania for Schrader, the director of Taxi Driver, after filming Adam Resurrected here in 2007, and the second time for Nicolas Cage, after Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Outside of its recognizable buildings, the capital welcomes tourists to beautiful parks, Italian-style cafes, and interesting museums, as this New York Times article explained. More about Bucharest’s museums here.

[email protected]

(Opening photo: A scene from The Nun; photo source: thenunmovie.net)

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