Watch Terry Gilliam’s location scouting for Munchausen


The video below contains some of Terry Gilliam’s location scouting research for The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. This video footage would have been recorded by Gilliam some time in 1987 prior to the shoot start of 21 September 1987.

Notes continue below the video.

Starting at 00:00 – Villa D’Este in Tivoli

This location was not used to shoot a scene for the movie, but the fountains were an inspiration for Vulcan’s ballroom, where the Baron dances with Venus.

Dante Ferretti said, “The setting [of Vulcan’s ballroom] was based on an actual Roman landmark called the Villa D’Este – a 15th century grouping of buildings and gardens with many beautiful waterfalls and fountains. In fact, Terry originally wanted to film the sequence there, but could not get permission. So we had to recreate the whole effect back in the studio. I managed to get some spare water jets from the Villa itself and machined a series of holes in them to aerate the water – an important consideration because we were shooting in half-scale. Without aeration, we would have run into that old problem of water being the most difficult substance to convincingly miniaturise. We then fabricated eight thirty-foot-high falls and fountains around that set. They all ran off a series of hidden pumps, with the water being channelled through ordinary fire hoses from four portable swimming pools that were twenty feet across and four feet deep. It was a closed system – the water was continuously pumped to the fountains and then back to the pools again.”

Starting at 01:26 – Unknown building, presumably in Rome

This is upside-down footage of a building in Rome. This location was not used in the final film. In the original script and storyboards, Gilliam intended that the when the Baron and Sally landed on the moon, they would arrive in an upside-down room at King’s palace. These ideas are discussed and demonstrated by Gilliam in the storyboard extras of recent DVD/Blu-ray releases. This idea was discarded when Gilliam had to reduce the scale of the picture.

Starting at 01:56 – Belchite old town, Spain

This location was used for filming the inside of the town, and also when the Baron and Sally escape the town in a balloon.

Starting at 03:26 – Almeria, Spain

This location was used to shoot the battle scenes, where the Sultan and his army were camping outside the town. This beach, the Playa de Mónsul, has been used in several other movies – including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where Indy’s dad scares the birds away with his umbrella.

Starting at 03:45 – The Alhambra, Spain

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain was not used as a location for Munchausen, but it was used as a reference point for the Sultan’s palace, and also the cannons may have been useful…

Terry Gilliam said, “We decided to use the Alhambra in Granada for the Sultan’s harem. Dante and I went out and did a recce: we measured everything, worked it all out, designed and built the model. Then, just over a month before we were due to start shooting, the entire team – special effects, stunts, camera crew – goes up to the Alhambra on our final technical scout and Bob Edwards, the line producer at that point, explains to me that we have a little problem. The problem is that we can’t use any smoke, we can’t lay tracks or move the camera and we can’t have a horse inside – in short, we cant do the scene. Shouldn’t he have told us this before we all got on the plane at vast expense? I just went berserk, but that was how it went on.

More to explore

Films in depth

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
The Zero Theorem
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus
The Brothers Grimm
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
12 Monkeys
The Fisher King
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Time Bandits