When Oscar-winner Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) signed on to direct superhero epic “Eternals,” she was given free rein to take the film in whichever direction she chose. That creative freedom allowed her to shoot “Eternals” on Spain’s Canary Islands, among other sites. It became the Marvel film that shot the most on-location of any in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“You want to see the character in relationship to the world behind them. It’s very difficult to make that feel real on stage. So going to a location was a very natural progression,” Zhao says in Marvel Studios doc “Assembled: The Making of Eternals.”
Canary island Fuerteventura is known for its rugged landscape and black-sand beaches. It stood in well for Mesopotamia, Babylon, the Neanderthal era and the Australian Outback in the fantasy film, which spans 7,000 years and some eight epochs. Sister island Lanzarote and its iconic and most accessible volcano, the Cuervo, also formed a dramatic backdrop, especially in the final set pieces.
“Wind was an issue. But we were blessed that our director was a location-driven director, so she embraced nature and made it part of the story,” says Kevin de la Noy, who served as executive producer and unit production manager on the film.
“I come from a location background and one of the first films I did down in the Canary Islands, that really opened it up, was ‘Clash of the Titans’ by Louis Leterrier, which really put the islands on the map,” says de la Noy, whose credits include “Aladdin,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and the upcoming “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.”
“We received considerable help, back in 2008, from the authorities, from the president of the Canary Islands, and particularly from the national parks of Tenerife,” he says of the “Clash” shoot. Subsequently, other major pics followed suit, including “Fast & Furious 6” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” before he returned with “Wrath of the Titans.”
Shot in 2019, “Eternals” could tap 40% of eligible local spend, capped then at €5.4 million ($5.5 million). “If you can get to people who understand what filming can do for the economy, it’s not just financial, you engender a sense of pride that something was made there,” he says.
However, “because the U.K. rebate is more favorable, what Spain has got is a great diversity of locations, an extraordinary history,” de la Noy says. “I mean, it’s surprising how big some of those islands are, but the important thing the Canary Islands has is that it’s a tourist destination, therefore the hotels are there.”
Getting to some of these remote locations took a remarkable 45 minutes at most. “That element of service industry and density of rooms that could be serviced, worked very well for a film company.” He also points to the worldclass quality of the local crews.
“All the islands have an infinite number of different locations; the time we need to move our film crews is short; the temperatures in the Canary Islands, especially in the winter months, are mild, and the connection with European countries is a short four-hour trip,” says Juan Cano, CEO of Sur-Film, which provided production services for “Eternals” in the Canary Islands.
“The hotel facilities are incredible; the security on the islands, the technical staff and an attractive tax incentive: all of this makes a fantastic package for this type of project,” says Cano, who points to the economic impact of foreign shoots, their creation of employment and effect on tourism.
“What’s good about the people in the Canary Islands is that they know their diversity of locations and they want to make it work, that’s the key factor,” says de la Noy. “And it’s very easy to do business when you feel you’ve got people who want to make it work behind you.”