VAL D’AOSTA/Hollywood on the Alps

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Point Break”: in the months of February and March, Hollywood moved to Val D’Aosta with two very different productions which both demanded the intense involvement of the region with highly spectacular scenes, special effects, a massive use of local personnel and a considerable spin-off for the local economy.

For “Avengers: Age of Ultron” the “Avengers” sequel written and directed by Joss Whedon and starring, amongst others, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson, which was also filmed in the UK (Shepperton), Korea and South Africa, Marvel was looking for a country in Eastern Europe, “a mysterious city called Novigrad but not the existing one”, says Alessandra Miletto, director of the Film Commission Val D’Aosta.
“I think that they contacted allthe European film commissions. We received the request through the ICE (Italian Foreign Trade Commission) in Los Angeles. They were asking for a very specific location which we felt corresponded perfectly to Fort Bard which, in fact, was their final choice. Moreover, in Verres and the city of Aosta, the production company found views which, with the necessary set alterations, could be made to look like the eastern land- scapes they were looking for”.

The locations in Val d’Aosta also include Point Saint Martin and Donnas: the filming from March 22nd – 28th (following three months of preparation) brought around 2.2 million to the region; with 1000 extras employed, 99% of which from the local area and around 500 hotel rooms booked.

Enzo Sisti, the movie’s executive producer, calls it “one of the best production operations we have ever carried out. You can work well in Val D’Aosta because the waiting times are not long and everyone, the staff at Fort Bard, the institutions, even the individual citizens, were incredibly helpful: for them it was a magnificent experience also because they understood that there could be excellent returns in terms of movie tourism”.
“It was an impressive production adventure that required a crew of 600 people, English, American and Italians”, continues Sisti. “There were around 400 Italians, almost all of which were from outside the area because certain professional figures do not yet exist in Val D’Aosta, even though we had many production assistants, drivers and local transportoperators. For the more difficult sequences,” he adds, “we contacted a local helicopter company: battle scenes between super heroes with earthquakes and a spaceship to take the population away”.

Whilst, for “Avengers: Age of Ultron” the Val D’Aosta lent itself to the reconstruction of an imaginary city (“and it is up to us to work on the promotion and spread the word that it was filmed here”, comments Miletto), for “Point Break” the region did not just provide the location but also the setting for the story.
For the remake of Kathryn Bigelow‘s famous 1991 movie (with Gerard Butler in the role of Bohdi, formerly played by Patrick Swayze and the young Australian actor Luke Bracey, in that of Utah-Keanu Reeves), “a small valley was chosen, the Aiguille Peak of the Grande Sassière, in Valgrisenche. Here the two leading characters who have come to Italy to carry out a robbery, launch themselves into dizzying descents on a snowboard,”, continues Miletto. “The second unit, directed by Rob Bruce filmed from February 10th to March 10th a and had to adapt to the weather conditions which were very unstable at the time”.

The film is produced by Alcon Entertainment and has already been purchased by distributors all over the world, including Italy’s Eagle Pictures which also handled the executive production in Italy.

“Val Grisanche is very popular with off piste skiers, and is one of the areas where it is possible to practice heliskiing”, explains Miletto.
“With off piste skiing there is a danger of avalanches, so it was necessary to make the location secure by exploding some charges of dynamite to break up the snow drifts that could cause avalanches. We worked closely with the Civil Defense Service and the Police Headquarters to clear up theslopes, a big job which also involved the municipalities of Valgrisenche, Rhêmes-Notre-Dame and the regional government”.

GianlucaLeurini, the head of executive production for Eagle Pictures, adds: “The crew was made up of around 50 people, Americans, Austrians, French and Italians, supported by around 15 skilled local workers. We stayed at the Hotel Mont Blanc Village in La Salle, occupying around 50 bedrooms for one month, making a total of 1000 overnight stays. The expenditure in the region during the 4 weeks of filming was around 1 million Euros”.
And it is not over yet: the first unit, led by the movie’s director, Ericson Core, will be returning to Val D’Aosta in October.

Nella sezione: Focus on italy