The Dark Tower filmed South Africa as other reality

11 August 2017


The movie adaptation of Stephen King’s novel saga The Dark Tower filmed partly on location in South Africa, using the country as a stand-in for a fantastical alternate reality.

Directed by Nikolaj Arcel, the story follows Tom Taylor’s teen Jake and his adventures as he falls in with Idris Elba’s heroic gunslinger Roland, an inhabitant of a parallel world who is trying to protect the universe from Matthew McConaughey’s mysterious Man in Black.

The story moves between modern New York – in our own reality – and another dimension known as Mid-World.

“Mid-World is a sort of a wasteland, yet not quite,” says Christopher Glass, responsible for the film’s South African production design. “There are a lot of remnants of an ancient civilisation that are scattered around this place; weirdly, the civilisation is a future civilisation that has now become ancient.

“In South Africa, we found otherworldly deserts – it was almost like being on Mars. The horizon just kept going; I’ve never seen anything like that before. I think that there’s a romance and a certain sense of adventure that goes into filming in Africa.”

Sets were built in the Karoo, a barren, desert-like landscape in the south of the country. Elsewhere, an immense, 360-degree construction was put together in an old shopping mall in Cape Town to create a story setting that lies between our own reality and Mid-World.

Local servicing came from Moonlighting Films, which has also recently worked on Tom Cruise’s Namibia shoot for The Mummy and on the upcoming reboot of Tomb Raider.

“There are vastly different visuals in the movie,” says Rasmus Videbaek, who worked with Arcel as cinematographer on The Dark Tower.

“We move from the intimacy of Jake’s small apartment where our cameras are psychologically close to him, as if trying to get into his head, and then when this little guy arrives in an enormous new world, we move to wide epic shots in a blindingly bright desert.”

South Africa is a popular southern hemisphere filming location for wilderness desert settings and the country often stands in for post-apocalyptic America. Cape Town and Johannesburg offer experienced production support and the country’s filming incentive support attracts producers from around the world.