Portugal is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for film productions with a wide variety of locations of every description. But there haven’t been very many major movies so far that feature locations in Portugal, so we’ve dug into the archives to search out a few that you may remember.
If 007 visits you can be sure it will be remembered. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) is one movie that puts Portugal on the map, even though with George Lazenby as 007 it was perhaps one of the least popular of the old Bond movies. The movie kicks off on Guincho beach near Cascais west of Lisbon with Bond rescuing Tracy di Vicenzo, mobster’s daughter, from the sea. We see plenty more scenes of Portugal including the dramatic 25 de Abril suspension bridge in Lisbon and the glamorous Palacio Estoril Hotel where Bond stays. Much of the rest of the drama shifts to Switzerland, but these scenic landscapes of Portugal are still memorable today.
Bond’s more enduring face, that of Sean Connery, visits Lisbon in another role and another era. The Russia House (1990) is a spy thriller based on a Le Carre novel and the film stars Michelle Pfeiffer as well as Sean Connery. While most of the movie is set in Russia, (and filmed on location there, a first for western films at the end of the Cold War era) Barley, Sean Connery’s heavy drinking publisher character has a home in Lisbon where he takes refuge in the middle and at the end of the movie, as he waits for the girl to join him after her escape from Russia.
The House of Spirits (1993) has an all-star cast with Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder, Antonio Banderas, and Vanessa Redgrave in a supporting role. The movie is set in Chile, based on the novel by Isabel Allende, but was filmed on location in Portugal and on set in Denmark. The rural Alentejo region in the South of Portugal with its rolling hills, mountains and hot dry summers doubles for Chile, and Lisbon provides some of the city backdrop to the drama.
Contemporary thriller, The Ninth Gate (1999) by Roman Polanski stars Johnny Depp as a rare book dealer seeking out a supernatural demon text. In the course of his travels around Europe through France and Spain, to track down the authentic copy of the book for his client, he visits Sintra in Portugal. It’s a picturesque area of Portugal just outside Lisbon with plenty of atmospheric hilltop palaces and castles. Depp visits Chalet Biester with its turreted outline tucked into lush green woodland exuding mystery.
The Lisbon Story (1994) was never a big box office draw, but being produced by Wim Wenders it has a certain appeal to movie buffs. Set in and around Lisbon it was originally commissioned as a promotional documentary by the city until Wim Wenders added a story line and some fictional characters to turn it into a full length movie. Of all these movies it is the one that probably shows the most representative views of the Lisbon itself, though the others have bucket loads more glamour!
Keep looking out for modern movies with locations in Portugal, as it’s sure to feature more and more on the film production companies’ lists of desirable destinations.
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