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Shooting Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts In Peru Was A Real Pain In The Butt

Steven Caple, Jr.’s 2023 movie, “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” took place partly in Peru and was filmed in notable locations around the country. According to Andina, the Peruvian news agency, “Rise of the Beasts” was filmed partly in the lush jungles of San Martin where Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman) met to discuss tactics in taking down the wicked robot Scourge (Peter Dinklage). Other parts of “Beasts” were shot in Saqsayhuaman on the outskirts of the ancient city of Cusco, which is an enormous stone network of structures in the shape of a puma. It is one of Peru’s most-visited locations. The filmmakers also filmed near the thousands of salt ponds of Maras, as well as near Macchu Picchu, the 15th-century Incan citadel you read all about in your fifth-grade geography class. 

Naturally, the Peruvian tourism boards have begun offering “Transformers”-themed tours of Machu Picchu. Although the citadel has already appeared in movies like 1954’s “Secret of the Incas,” Werner Herzog’s 1972 classic “Aguirre: The Wrath of God,” and the 2004 Che Guevara biopic “The Motorcycle Diaries.” Fans of those movies, or just any curious soul interested in the history of the world, would do well to visit someday. 

Evidently, however, filming “Rise of the Beasts” in Peru was a big pain in the neck for everyone involved. It seems that a production the size of a “Transformers” movie — a film that cost nearly $200 million to make — had never gone that far into the jungles of Peru before. The filmmakers had to hire a lot of local help to bring cranes, dollies, and all manner of heavy filmmaking equipment into the wilderness. They described their experience in a making-of documentary included on the film’s recent Blu-ray release.

Fitzcarraldo, why don’t you come to your senses?

Paramount Pictures

In the extra feature, one of the filmmakers claims that no major American film had been shot before in Peru, which isn’t entirely accurate, given that a Charlton Heston movie was filmed there in the 1950s. Also, Eli Roth’s cannibal film “The Green Inferno” was filmed there, as was Dennis Hopper’s 1971 indie “The Last Movie” and Herzog’s other jungle epic, 1982’s “Fitzcarraldo.” 

“Fitzcarraldo” may be worth noting, as that film is about a mad Irishman named Fitzgerald (Klaus Kinski) who dreams of building an opera house in the middle of the jungle. In order to do so, he needed to transport a supply ship from one Amazonian tributary to another, dragging it over a steep strip of land. It was a daunting and difficult task, and one made all the more exhilarating to watch when one realizes that Herzog actually had to drag a real ship over a real strip of land to film it. 

That struggle was mirrored gently by the “Transformers” filmmakers who describe, in brief, the experience of dragging tons of equipment into the jungle. One of the crew members said that making Peruvian locations accessible was their biggest problem. Director Steven Caple Jr. noted, “It’s really technically hard to do and pull off. We have so much equipment. We found a way to bring a technodolly out here, bring the crane out here.” 

A technodolly, easily rented online, is a massive camera rig and accompanying track that can steadily swing a camera in most directions and create smooth tracking shots. 

Shipping costs extra

Paramount Pictures

Bruno Canale, the Peruvian line producer, was in charge of transporting the technodolly and crane and other gear into the jungles, and pointed out that a lot of additional construction was needed to accomplish the task. Canale said, “We’ve had to build bridges. We build wooden pathways. Footpaths. Fixed roads.” He also noted that there was a doctor on call, armed with antivenom, just in case an errant snake slithered onto the set and bit someone.

Add to all this the fact that Cusco rests 11,000 feet above sea level, with Machu Picchu resting at about 8,000 feet. For comparison, the highest parts of Colorado in the United States are only at about 6,800 feet. For many of the American crew members, this meant they had to fight to breathe; they weren’t accustomed to the thinned atmosphere at that altitude. It’s worth noting that many athletes like to train at high altitudes to strengthen their lungs and bodies for when they return to lower plains. The non-Preuvian crew of “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” essentially had to give their lungs an Olympic-level workout. 

Another crewmate noted that they had to build a steady camera platform in the middle of a river in order to get the shots they wanted. Yes, as it turns out, the river was far deeper than expected. To get all the equipment to Peru, everything was packed up in shipping crates over the course of five months, and each piece would take two months to arrive. This would involve planning that would make even the most stalwart accountant blanche.  

“Beasts” star Anthony Ramos wanted to make damn sure that none of the Peruvian scenes were shot against green screens. They all did the legwork. 

Source : Slash Film