We chat to the team behind a hit miniseries filmed in South Africa

Tutankhamun, Supplied
Tutankhamun, Supplied

Cape Town – We chatted to Francis Hopkinson and Catherine Oldfield the producers behind ITV’s historical hit drama Tutankhamun.

The historical miniseries - based on the famous dig that unearthed Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt and lead by Howard Carter – was filmed in Cape Town and the Northern Cape.

See the trailer here:

Francis and Catherine told us all about filming in the incredible heat, dealing with spiders and scorpions and turning a disused correction facility in Cape Town into Cairo. 

What was it like to shoot in Namibia? Max Irons has mentioned that it was tough at times

Catherine: We weren’t over the border; actually, we were on the South African side... We were in Vioolsdrift. We were there before it got too, too hot. It was very hot, there was one day when it got up 45 degrees (Celsius) and Max was in almost every single scene. He was brilliantly heroic about the whole thing. We hope that the hard work and effort of working in that heat has paid off. I think it looks fantastic on screen. We’re very glad we did it. 

Max has also mentioned the creepy crawly cast mates on set (spiders, scorpions, etc), could you tell us more about that? 

Catherine: I didn’t actually encounter any of them, first hand, but I did receive an alarming production note one day that said…

Francis: It was 40 pages long… (laughs). 

Catherine: (cont.) if I move I’ll be dead (laughs) and we had three full time wranglers on set who were relocating scorpions and snakes. So it was as much as adventure for us as it is in the story, really. 

The set design on this miniseries is really something special; could you please tell our readers what it took to recreate some of those famous digs?

Francis: The exteriors of the digs were shot in the Northern Cape, so we had to flatten the ground. Some of the digs were quite easy to recreate, because they kept to a hole in the ground. The interiors…there was more debate because Howard Carter took a lot of photos and film so we could be very accurate. So the exteriors were shot in the Northern Cape and the interiors we built in the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town. And we created all the tombs in a deserted basketball stadium there.

Catherine: We had an amazing set designer, a South African guy called Mike Berg. He was really amazing at recreating everything and making it look as it was. 

Francis: We also recreated the streets of Luxor and Cairo – which Lord Carnarvon bombed around in his Rolls Royce – in a deserted boys detention centre on the outskirts of Cape Town. 

Both of you have done extensive work on other popular miniseries what other challenges has Tutankhamun, the series, presented?

Catherine: It was the scale really. Creating an epic, romantic, legendary story that will sweep people up; and I think we really have.

Catch it on ITV Choice (DStv 123), Thursdays at 21:00 and DStv Now