The BBC chose to film on location in the Czech Republic for its new ten-part adventure series The Musketeers. Based on Alexander Dumas’ classic novel The Three Musketeers, the country doubled for 17th Century Paris.
Paris was never seriously considered as a filming location, partly because the city’s extensive development work over the decades meant it lacked the grittier historic architecture the production team was looking for.
“The Czech Republic was not significantly bombed in the world wars so a lot of the original architecture remains intact,” explained series producer Colin Wratten: “The beauty of the Czech Republic is that they have many beautiful privately-owned stately homes with owners who are only too pleased to rent them out for filming. They also have areas that are less developed. In the UK we would have been framing out the National Trust gift shop at many of the period locations. In Prague we could shoot 360 degrees at the majority of the locations we filmed in.”
Shooting at privately-owned locations was logistically easier than having to negotiate with large organisations and the team got warm welcomes as the location fees were helping with the daily upkeep. Crucially, the crew were careful of the historical buildings they were working in so as to show the owners they were a respectful presence.
In the UK we would have been framing out the National Trust gift shop at many of the period locations. In Prague we could shoot 360 degrees at the majority of the locations we filmed.
Colin Wratten, Producer
Rather than using studio facilities, the production team set up their main base in the town of Doksany, 30 kilometres north-west of Prague. Here they built various Parisian streets, a Parisian town square and the musketeer garrison, while a disused convent became home to additional sets including taverns, bedrooms and a mortuary. In many additional locations, small augmentations were made by Production Designer Will Hughes Jones.
“Mainly it was about adding detail,” Wratten commented: “Will would build additional walls or prison bars, build stables, add shutters, cover the tarmac with peat or mud, furnish rooms with specially-made furniture, add flaming torches or braziers that he had had made by local blacksmiths [and] add action props that were made locally – specially made pewter cups, leather cups, wonky glass bottles, plates, iron forks [and] candlesticks.”
A creative approach was needed to light the interior scenes, given that naked flames were the only option the team had for the story’s 16th Century setting. Jones approached the issue by strategically positioning candles at head-height to light the actors. He also built fireplaces in rooms where they hadn’t previously existed and used hidden extractor fans to prevent the rooms filling with smoke.
“Often the paint would freeze in the tin and then it would snow and the paint would wash off before it had dried,” Wratten recalled: “The hardy Czech construction crew battled on bravely and delivered the build on schedule. In the summer, temperatures rose to +30 Degrees Celsius, which made for tough filming conditions for the musketeers in their thick leather uniforms.
“Notwithstanding, it was an enormously enjoyable shoot in a beautiful country. We were very well supported by a Czech crew who are proud of their country and their results.”
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