Movies made by Marvel Studios tend to be filmed against blue or green screens, and involve a lot of special effects rather than real-life destinations, but that’s changed with its latest blockbuster, Eternals . “Director Chloé Zhao employs a naturalistic style of location-based filmmaking, so she wanted the filming to take place at practical locations, as much as was feasibly possible,” a Marvel Studios spokesperson says. Eternals centres on a group of otherworldly superheroes, the cast led by Gemma Chan (who starred in Crazy Rich Asians and whose parents are from Hong Kong) and including Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie , Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani and Korean actor Don Lee, also known as Ma Dong-seok . The story flits between the past and present, covering the group’s backstory and visiting each character in their now disparate homes across the world as they live among mortals. Chan’s character, Sersi, travels between the modern-day locations attempting to get the gang back together in the face of a threat from an old enemy, The Deviants. “We shot mainly on location,” the Oscar-winning, Beijing-born Zhao confirms. “The visual experience of this film must feel immersive and interactive enough for audiences to believe that these characters have walked the earth for 7,000 years. It’s not possible to do that on a [sound] stage.” Zhao needed locations to stand in for both ancient and contemporary settings that included Mesopotamia and Babylon, in Western Asia; the Gupta Empire, India; South Dakota and Alaska, in the United States; and the Amazon rainforest. She found what she was looking for on the Spanish Canary Islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, and in parts of southern England. “We’ve got these great sequences on black-sand beaches and volcanic islands,” says Madden, who plays Ikaris, Sersi’s on-off boyfriend of several thousand years. “We shot in the streets of London. We shot in forests and woods. All of that really helps make this movie more grounded in reality than just if we’d purely shot it all in a studio.” Although the film begins with Sersi emerging from the London Underground, in Piccadilly Circus – she works at the Natural History Museum, in the centre of the British capital – a lot of filming took place in leafy north London, between Camden High Street and Hampstead Heath. Chan and Kit Harington (who plays Dane Whitman, a museum colleague and boyfriend of Sersi) were spotted by local dog walkers while being filmed on Parliament Hill, part of Hampstead Heath. At one point Chan was seen suspended by a crane and wires, “flying” above the hill, which is known for its view of the City of London. A night shoot in Camden involved Chan and Harington, along with the latter’s former Game of Thrones co-star Madden. Scenes took place on the bridge at Camden Lock, a scruffy yet unfathomably popular tourist haunt, where Ikaris “flies” and Sersi turns a red double-decker bus into poppies; as well as on Regent’s Canal and the towpath beneath. In front of a run of shops and restaurants in Belsize Park, between Camden and Hampstead, Chan was filmed with Harington as well as Nanjiani (Kingo, an Eternal turned Bollywood star) and American child actor Lia McHugh (Sprite, a 7,000 year old in a 12-year-old girl’s body). The English countryside stood in for other locations. Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire, was the setting for the South Dakota ranch of Ajak (played by Hayek). Swinley Forest, in Berkshire west of London, substituted for Alaska while Black Park, near Pinewood Studios, was the setting for an Aztec pyramid. The subtropical, volcanic Canary Islands stood in for ancient Mesopotamia and Babylon, as well as the present-day Australian Outback. Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are the oldest of the seven Canary Islands and are thus not as troubled by volcanic activity as La Palma, which is experiencing heavy lava flows after a September 19 eruption. Making use of the unique scenery, the film crew pressed into service the Cuervo Volcano, one of the most accessible on Lanzarote and which has an easy-to-negotiate guided pathway around its perimeter and even inside the crater. Filming is also thought to have taken place at Charco de los Clicos, a startlingly green lagoon in a volcanic crater alongside a black-sand beach, and in the red-hued Rodeos Mountain in the Los Volcanes Natural Park, which is criss-crossed by walking trails. On Fuerteventura, Penitas Gorge, which is popular with hikers, and the Buen Paso palm groves feature in Eternals , as do La Solapa Beach, with its distinctive rocky coastline and black-sand beach, and the Corralejo sand dunes. While filming in 2019, Jolie was photographed with her children and Lia McHugh visiting the resort town of Corralejo’s kite-flying festival, which takes place every November. “To shoot in those locations, in those environments with real desert, with real ocean, with real volcanoes was something we don’t always get to do,” Eternals producer Nate Moore says. “I think the film will feel richer for it.” Eternals opens in Hong Kong cinemas on November 3.