Colin Firth’s new film produced by Luc Besson about the true story of the Kursk submarine disaster of 2000 has been postponed due to planned location filming in Russia has been blocked by the top brass there. A bit of a change of mind by those pesky Russians as earlier this year the Russian defence ministry announced it would be supporting the shoot but is now under review amid new concerns over allowing access to military locations and classified information.
Quite why the production chose to film in Russia is anyone’s guess because its not a particularly film-friendly part of the world and renewed East-West political tensions over the past couple of years have not eased relationships with European or Hollywood filmmakers. The most recent Die Hard film, A Good Day to Die Hard (no 603 in the franchise) used Budapest to double up for Moscow and even the BBC’s faithful adaptation of War & Peace was mostly shot in Lithuania
Submarine stories are nearly always great setting for compelling stories with Das Boot being amongst the best and ‘U-571’ being good fun even if it did muck about with the actual facts and fictional films like Crimson Tide & The Hunt for Red October being great Cold War thrillers. In fact the only real life story about a Russian sub that we were bored senseless by was the Kathryn Bigelow, Harrison Ford starrer, the jauntily titled, ‘K-19: The Widowmaker’. With dodgy accident prone Russian submarines frequently in the news the story of the Kursk was ripe for filming being about a nuclear submarine trapped beneath Barents Sea – in the southern Arctic Ocean – following explosions on board that killed all 118 crew.
Due to the confined setting however submarine stories are inherently challenging to film. Kevin Macdonald’s Black Sea filmed scenes on a 1960s-era Russian submarine now privately owned in south-east England, and also built a set at Pinewood Studios and Gerard Butler is currently filming submarine drama Hunter Killer, at Ealing Studios as well as in Bulgaria.