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U-571 in Malta

Source: BBC Online /

Malta cashes in on movie-makers

"U571" was filmed on one of Malta's giant film sets

While some film-makers are enjoying Cannes, 3,000 others have chosen to travel a little further east instead. Virginia Eastman reports from Malta

Malta is becoming the location of choice for film-makers in Europe. Two movies are currently in production there, including "U571", the tale of the capture of the enigma coding device which helped to win World War II.

Special effects are created with massive machinery. Much of the filming for this latest project by director Dino de Laruentis has taken place at night at the Rinella water tanks in Malta.

There are three huge water tanks at the Mediterranean Film Studios. The biggest, the deep water tank, is over 11m deep, and takes 10 hours to fill.

It is equipped with special effects machinery that can create storms to suit any director's whim - it even includes a jet engine to produce those apocalyptic hurricanes.

Unsurprisingly, many of the films made at the studios have had a watery theme. Three full-scale replicas of period ships were afloat on the tanks for "Christopher Columbus - the Discovery".

Other films made there include "The Count of Monte Cristo", "Cutthroat Island" and "White Squall".

For "U571", stars Mathew Maconaughey, Jon Bon Jovi and Harvey Keitel had to brave the elements in the water tanks for five hours at a time.

They all wore wet suits under their costumes to keep them warm.

Jon Bon Jovi wore a wet suit for days when filmingOn the dry set, it is not so taxing. But every scene is rehearsed many times, and shots checked and checked again for the tiniest of flaws before they go for a take.

"U571" is keeping about 500 people in work in Malta - one of the reasons the film industry is so important to the island.

Government help to attract film-makers has enticed some of the industry's finest.

Stephen Spielberg and Ridley Scott have made films here, while David Puttnam and Alan Parker turned Malta into Turkey for "Midnight Express".

It is not known how much the Maltese film industry is worth, but it is thought about L15m will be spent there making "U571" alone.

The facilities in Malta have been attracting producers of films, TV series and advertisements for 35 years.

It is no surprise that as the word spreads, some of the best in Hollywood are now calling it their second home.

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