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Most of Aquaman takes place under water and as such, it of course required the majority of the film to be shot on a soundstage. The same is true of the film's detour to Italy when Arthur Curry and Mera make their way to the island of Sicily. Everything you see there was created by the set designers. However, it turns out that wasn't originally going to be the case. The original plan had been to shoot the chase and Black Manta fight sequence on location in Erice, Scicily. Unfortunately, it turns out the town rejected the production's request to film there. It's maybe not too surprising considering what the movie wanted to do. According to Aquaman producer Peter Safran...
We were originally going to shoot in Erice until they found out what we wanted to do there.
Of course, what they wanted to do was stage one of the film's major action sequences. It starts with some statues being destroyed as Black Manta attacks Aquaman and Mera with some Atlantean soldiers in tow. The battle then breaks in half as Mera is chased by one of the soldiers while Aquaman and Black Manta face off. It's an incredibly well done sequence that, thanks to some digital trickery, appears to all be happening in a single take.
While I'm sure the Aquaman production wasn't actually planning to blow up any bell towers, it's probably somewhat difficult to film a massive superhero battle without doing a little bit of damage. If nothing else the crew and machinery required to film everything would have been massive. The town of Erice has been around for centuries and apparently wasn't interested in having a huge movie action scene take place in the middle of their town, so instead, the production team just copied the parts of the town they needed and rebuilt in on a stage in Australia. According production designer to Bill Bzeski...
At the end of the day, going to Italy and working in a historical town wasn't going to work for us if you're going to blow stuff up. So we built, literally, a whole portion of the town.
It appears that if you're familiar with Erice, Sicily, you might actually mistake what you see in Aquaman for the real place, because what was created by the crew is called a "perfect replica" of part of the actual town, in one of the special features attached to the new Blu-ray release of Aquaman.
It's too bad that Aquaman wasn't able to film in Italy. With all the time the production spent on stages it probably would have been nice to get out and be on location someplace. At the same time, I'm not sure you can fault the town for not wanting to see their historic home blown up.
Aquaman is available now on Digital HD and Blu-ray.