Fight coordinator Mike Lambert explained that Tarzan’s fighting style is in direct relation to his upbringing, that of an animal. And yes, though The Legend of Tarzan begins with the character fully grown, there will be flashbacks to explain how he is the way he is. We’ll meet his parents, see their treehouse, watch them die and meet his gorilla mother Kala. It’ll just all be done in flashbacks.

Besides the fresh take on the character, the most impressive thing about visiting The Legend of Tarzan set was just how massive the production was. Multiple stages at Leavesden were taken over, including several expansive outdoor areas. Two stages in particular were fully dressed as jungles. I’m talking huge trees, long vines, real dirt, and ceiling-to-floor matte paintings surrounding the entire stage. Production designer Stuart Craig (who, like many on this film, worked with Yates on the Harry Potter movies) explained that the two stages would be altered numerous times to create seven distinct jungle looks. This allowed the production to look like they are in the African rainforest without actually traveling there. (A second unit for the film would travel to Africa for pick ups and helicopter shots but no cast ever set foot there.)

It’s hard to explain how immersive and immense the jungle stages were. The vines are foam rubber and the trees are hollow, but you can’t tell from just looking at them. The only giveaway anything is fake is the fact that trees of this size could never grow so close to each other. But that’s just creative license.

Other jaw-dropping sets include the full town called Boma, the home of Waltz’s character, which looks like a classic Western with some New Orleans flair. It’s built almost in full, with five or six entire buildings, making you feel like you’re actually there. Around the corner, there’s a huge water tank where a boat will literally be sunk.

Down the hill is a set where the Djimon Hounsou’s Mbonga warriors reside. It was a full, 360° experience with black sand on the ground and huge volcanic rocks surrounding you, rising up to 30 feet high. There’s even a working waterfall component, though it wasn’t on when we got there. Finally, over the hill, an expansive village of straw huts was in the open field. However, those were all wired for pyrotechnics, so we couldn’t get too close.

As someone who’s been on a lot of sets, my biggest takeaway from The Legend of Tarzan was just a real sense of joy. Sure, cast and crew love to tell the press how much they are loving their work, but time and time again, from the costume designer, to the hair and makeup team, down to the unit publicist and actors, everyone said this was some of the most fun they’d ever had making a movie. If they were lying, David Yates might be forced to cast them in his next film cause they were very convincing. The Legend of Tarzan is a passion project for just about everyone involved and, if the sequel/reboot works, maybe another film could happen. For now though, it was just all about making the best movie possible.


The Legend of Tarzan opens July 1.

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