Main Bridge and Residence in Würzburg, Town Hall and Cathedral Square in Bamberg do not look anything like Paris. But you can pretend, thought the team around director Paul W. S. Anderson, which went on to produce “The Three Musketeers” without further ado in Bavaria.
Film locations – Würzburg and Bamberg
A short-term job as a stable boy can be exciting, at least when you’re on the payroll with Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen and Milla Jovovich. “I only appear in the film for a few seconds, but the film shoot was a great experience,” recalls Florian Westhage. In 2010, the teacher was still a student in Bamberg and one of more than 1,000 extras for the remake of “The Three Musketeers”.
When Bamberg played Paris
Franconia the “Francophile”: parts of Bamberg’s Old Town – a World Heritage Site – were used in the film as a backdrop for 17th-century Paris. It is also the port city of Calais. This is because picture-book Franconia is closer to old France than modern Paris and Calais. The medieval manor of “Alte Hofhaltung”, which directly adjoins the cathedral square, was chosen as a fitting location for the filming of the St. Germain district in Paris.
There, D’Artagnan met the three musketeers for a duel, which in the end escalated into a turbulent battle, with the four heroes fighting the old creep Rochefort (played by Mads Mikkelsen) and his 40 guards. The “Altes Rathaus” (Old Town Hall) is also often seen in the film, and the Regnitz River, which splashes along beneath its bridge foundations, took on the role of the Seine in Paris.
“Muskets were fired at night”
At the end of the Upper Bridge in the film was the house that was home to the Musketeers, who were seen walking through the imposing gate of the Town Hall. What didn’t fit for the film was made to fit on the computer. Larger sailing ships on the river and also some buildings that can be seen in the film are not to be found in the real Bamberg.
Most of the extras didn’t have much to do, but apart from the pride of having played in a blockbuster, the job also had the advantage of being very close to all the sabre-rattling in front of camera, Westhage recalls: “It was almost impossible for the many spectators near the set to see anything, the filming locations were very well shielded. And who can claim to have helped Mads Mikkelsen onto a horse?!”
The adventures of D’Artagnan (played by Logan Lermann) and his three friends Athos (Matthew MacFadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans) were released in 2011. Christoph Waltz took on the role of the power-hungry Cardinal Richelieu in the remake of Alexandre Dumas’ classic, while Orlando Bloom played the Duke of Buckingham, looking a bit like Elvis Presley with his sweeping hairdo. Milla Jovovich took on the role of Milady de Winter. The fact that she is the wife of director Paul W. S. Anderson may have played a role in the part’s allocation.
“I didn’t know that Germany was so beautiful”
Bavaria’s sights are truly worthy of filming, whether in Munich, Bamberg, Würzburg, Burghausen and on the island of Herrenchiemsee, which sent both director and cast into raptures. “I didn’t know Germany was so beautiful,” enthused Matthew Macfadyen.
And Paul W. S. Anderson asserted that he had never seen such beautiful locations before. The film is considered one of the most elaborate on-location productions in Europe. The studio recordings were also made in Germany, at Studio Babelsberg near Potsdam.
It was sometimes really loud in Bamberg when filming took place at the Old Town Hall and on the Upper Bridge. “Muskets were fired at night,” recalls extra Westhage. The residents had then been informed beforehand so as not to fall out of bed from shock. And, fortunately, they only shot with blanks.
Although film and television have often been shot in the world heritage city, this shoot went beyond all previous dimensions. A film production of this magnitude had never been seen, even in Bamberg, which is well versed in filming. The 350-strong film team had to move a total of seven times to the various filming locations in Bavaria. Everywhere, there were extras of their own, a total of about 4,000 were involved.
Louvre and the “Tower of Würzburg”
Würzburg was “besieged” for a fortnight. The episcopal residence was transformed into the Louvre in Paris, which in the 17th century was not yet a museum but a royal palace where King Louis XIII resided. The Marienberg fortress high above the Main embodied the Tower of London and the chapel in the Louvre.
The “Alte Mainbrücke” (Old Main Bridge), which connects the Marienberg Fortress and Würzburg’s Old Town and where crowds of tourists usually meet for a traditional “Brückenschoppen”, provided the perfect backdrop for D’Artagnan’s arrival in Paris. Logan Lerman rode past hundreds of extras on a white horse on the almost 200-metre-long arched bridge. Other Würzburg citizens became chambermaids, gardeners, French peasants or guardsmen without further ado.
The City of Würzburg and Bavaria’s “Schlösserverwaltung” (the city department dedicated to palatial upkeep) had closed off streets and squares for the huge film entourage, taken down streetlights, covered the “Residenz” with red brocade, and temporarily restricted access to the prince-bishop’s palace and the Marienberg fortress. Nevertheless, there was a lot for viewers to see during the two-week shoot. And not to mention the film stars up close during the filming breaks. Christoph Waltz was spotted in the café and Milla Jovovich in the fashion discount store buying cheap chic for her daughter.
The result is a film with mixed reviews, but terrific images in 3D. And a Bavaria that has certainly never been seen with such a French touch. Franconian bratwurst – it should be mentioned – was only served to the musketeers during breaks in filming.