How Vietnam caught the attention of Hollywood

By Nguyen Minh   February 1, 2017 | 11:15 pm PT
'Kong: Skull Island,' which was filmed in the country last year, is hoped to be the first of many more blockbusters to come.

In a well-documented tale, the Bond film "Tomorrow Never Dies" was supposed to have several key scenes filmed in Ha Long Bay and Ho Chi Minh City in 1997.


Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (red shirt) during the filming of "Kong" in Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress

But things didn't work out, forcing the crew to travel and shoot the "Vietnam" scenes in Thailand instead.

Nearly two decades later, it seems that Vietnam is now ready to attract Hollywood productions. Last year, famous destinations Quang Binh, Ninh Binh and Ha Long were chosen as locations for the upcoming Hollywood blockbuster "Kong: Skull Island," set to premiere in March.

There have been several reports suggesting that the next "Fast & Furious" sequel may be filmed in Vietnam.

Leann Emmert, an assistant location manager for "Kong," said Vietnam stood out in Southeast Asia as a perfect place thanks to its low costs and unique landscapes.

Good locations should also be close to five-star hotels or resorts and easily accessible from major cities, said Emmert, also known for her work for "The Dark Knight Rises" and "Lincoln."

As an average Hollywood film crew might have up to 200 people, good accommodation and traveling conditions are priorities, she said. For "Kong," there were around 120 crew members and an all-star cast.


Academy winner Brie Larson, one of the stars of the film, in Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress

This may explain why Vietnam’s mountainous provinces, such as Ha Giang, Lao Cai and Lai Chau, didn’t qualify. Even the famous Son Doong, the world’s largest cave in Quang Binh, was ruled out due to transport difficulties.

After months of surveying, Ninh Binh's rocky landscape was chosen as the fictional birthplace of Kong, hailed by the crew as a "very unique feature that only Vietnam possesses."

Emmert said the cost of renting equipment in Vietnam is also much cheaper than in other countries, giving it an edge over other neighbors such as Thailand or Cambodia. Meanwhile, filming in European cities such as Budapest or Prague, often the go-to foreign locations of many filmmakers, is becoming increasingly expensive.

While the "Fast & Furious" rumor has not been confirmed, one major foreign project is expected to arrive soon: “Les Confins du Monde,” an Indochina-war set drama directed by Guillaume Nicloux. Shooting is expected to start in April, with Gaspard Ulliel and Gerard Depardieu as the starts, according to Variety.

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