The interior sets of a Virginia-class Hunter Killer submarine were built at Ealing Studios, using plans approved by the US Navy, with the spaces slightly enlarged to allow freer movement of the camera. The sets were mounted on a gimbal to simulate the movement of the sea.
“In our deal with the US Navy, we actually promised that everything about the submarine would be genuine,” says John Thompson, one of the film’s producers.
“They were kind enough to let us reveal this sub for the first time, so [production designer] Jon Henson spent a few weeks with the designers and engineers at Navy and came back with the most extraordinary details, right down to the color of the cables.
“The US Navy also provided someone to guide and assist Jon and his team through the construction. We wanted it to be so precise that if someone who had served in a real Virginia class submarine came onto the set, they would recognize it immediately.
Ealing also housed a Pentagon set from which US military personnel follow the action of the submarine.
An exterior set of the main Hunter Killer submarine was built into Pinewood Studios’ 806,000 gallon exterior water tank, while underwater scenes were shot using a separate water tank at Warner Bros. Studios. Leavesden, also just outside London.
A Bulgarian naval base in the town of Varna on the Black Sea coast doubled for exterior shots of the Russian base at Polyarny which, in real life, is a closed facility.
The interiors of the Russian base were built as sets in the Nu Boyana film studios in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital. Nu Boyana also recently hosted a new take on Hellboy and is currently home to Sylvester Stallone’s action sequel, Rambo 5.