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About The Production
Little has been recorded about the era between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance, known as the Dark Ages. This went to the heart of Reynolds and production designer Mark Geraghty's quest to bring that era to life for the production of TRISTAN & ISOLDE. "No one really knows what occurred in the Dark Ages and that can be good and bad,” comments Reynolds. "Mark and I looked at it from the standpoint of what we knew existed in Roman England about the fifth century AD. And then, when records started being kept again, about the ninth century AD, we could extrapolate backwards to bridge that centuries-long gap.”

Reynolds leaned on Geraghty, with whom he collaborated on "The Count of Monte Cristo.” Reynolds also knew that Geraghty could be extremely inventive with his designs. A lot of it, Geraghty says, comes down to guess work and frequent use of their imaginations. "How do you create a time and a place that is from 1500 years ago, but at the same time make it something today's audience can relate to?” says Geraghty. "Because we are telling a story and not making a documentary, we took the bits out that really suited us and we tried to create a world that we imagined had the feeling of the Dark Ages.”

Geraghty and his team researched how people would have lived, what tools they would have used to farm, what they would have eaten and what types of structures they would build to survive in those conditions. "What animals would have been around at that time?” Geraghty muses. "There were a lot of areas, so we had to be quite inventive, keeping in mind the information we did have and reconciling that with what the script required.”

They deduced that most structures would be wooden or thatched because stone structures (other than those left behind by the Romans) did not begin to appear in the area until around 1000 AD. "For the Irish castle we went for a Celtic influence, because we were very sure that was there,” he says. "For anything that was set in England, we drew more upon the Roman influence.”

For the landscapes as the filmmakers envisioned them, Reynolds, Lemley and Mark Geraghty spent months scouting Romania, France, Scotland and England before deciding on the west coast of Ireland and the Czech Republic. "In many ways, we're creating a place which in fact does not exist,” comments Reynolds. "So we looked to marry the best of Ireland and the best of the Czech Republic into this fabricated, imaginary place.”

Though the locations on the west coast of Ireland embodied both the wild, rugged and timeless look they sought for Dark Ages-era Ireland and Cornwall, England, its remoteness and change-on-a-dime weather provided a continuous challenge to the production. "You have all kinds of variables, like weather, the logistics of trying to get to a locale, building things, getting people in and out - it's enormous!” says Reynolds. Yet the challenge was worth the effort. "I felt it was important to go there and get those looks to give it a broader scope and a bigger scale,” says Reynolds.

The set of King Donnchadh's Dunluce Castle was built on a small island on the west coast of Ireland, on the sandy beaches of Glassillaun. "We really wanted a feeling that this place has been here for an awfully long time, so we tried to blend the castle into the landscape, because that's what the people would have been influenced by,” notes Geraghty. "And also the weather. We had to build something that would stand up to the winds and the hardship that they would have endured in real life.”

This island location provided its own set of challenges. "We could only reach the castle two hours a day in between low tides,” says Geraghty. "It was quite difficult to structure and film there, but we felt the location offered us so much in terms of a visual sense that it was worth the inconvenience.”

A particularly favorite set of both Reynolds and Geraghty was the R


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