Tartu keen on Nolan movie filming should Tallinn fall through

If Tallinn is found wanting as a filming location for the upcoming Christopher Nolan-directed Hollywood thriller, Tartu is ready to step into the breach.
If Tallinn is found wanting as a filming location for the upcoming Christopher Nolan-directed Hollywood thriller, Tartu is ready to step into the breach. Source: OLIVER MATKUR/PM/SCANPIX BALTICS

Should film studio Warner Bros not find suitable filming locations in Tallinn for Tenet, an upcoming spy thriller directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Interstellar, Dunkirk), Tartu has announced it is keen for the producers to consider Estonia's second city instead.

Head of the local creative industries' center Kristiina Reidolv has already discussed the option with the filmmakers, BNS reports, quoting regional daily Tartu Postimees.

"I have held negotiations with the filmmakers," Reidolv said.

"I offered the post office junction on Ringtee Road [in the southwest of the city], the Annelinn and Hiinalinn districts [to the east of the city center], plus the former military airfield, as potential filming locations. They are delighted in our offer," she added.

Warner Bros. Announced in May that they would be heading to Estonia to make part of Tenet, which stars John David Washington (Malcolm X, BlacKkKlansman), and  Robert Pattinson (the Twilight series of movies), as well as veteran British actors Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh, but since then the project has met with some pushback on the issue of filming on Laagna Road.

The producers wanted to close a lengthy stretch of what is a major arterial route running from Kadriorg to the densely-populated Lasnamäe district east of the center, for up to a month. Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart said a full closure of the road, which has several lanes in each direction, for that length of time, was not viable, citing disruption and emergency vehicle access concerns, but added a compromise was possible.

Laagna Road in Tallinn may get compromise

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) and Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) added their support for compromise on Thursday.

This might see the road closed only at weekends, and/or closure in one direction during work days, related to the flow of traffic into the city in the mornings and away in the evenings. Warner Bros. had reportedly had their eye on the so-called "Lasnamäe Channel", a limestone cutting constructed when the road was first built, towards the end of the Soviet era.

The channel is at the city center end of the road, in an area already seeing some disruption due to the construction of Reidi Road, linking the harbor area to Kadriorg. Additionally, the Song Festival takes place in early July, the very month the road closure was requested, bringing even more traffic pressure.

Olga Einasto, tour guide and head of the service department of the library of the University of Tartu, who first invited Nolan and the production team to the city, noted on her social media page that the main concern was to have filming in Estonia first, with anything taking place in Tartu being the icing on the cake.

"Tartu has something to offer to every film direction; our city is so colorful and diverse. And we must make an offer, as those who do not want to fly high, fly low," she stated.

Nolan fan of Soviet architecture

Nolan is reportedly interested in Soviet-era architecture and landscaping, so Einasto recommended the Annelinn residential district and the Ropka industrial district, in the south of the city, as potential locales.

"We have dismantled much of the Soviet monumentalism at the military airfield (site of the relatively new Estonian National Museum in the Raadi district-ed.), but we have potential elsewhere," she said.

"Tartu residents are open and innovative; we would be able to endure any inconvenience for some time. In exchange, we would get the city on the map, and our people would get work in the mass scenes," Einasto said.

Advertisements for extras started to appear on social media soon after the filming announcement was made, giving a location close to Laagna Road.

Mayor's response

This city's mayor, Urmas Klaas (Reform), added his voice to the calls for Tartu as a filming venue.

"If Tallinn is unable to manage, Tartu residents will think how it might be done, and then do it," he said, according to BNS.

"We already have several large events taking place this summer: A Metallica concert and a rally, for instance, but we would also be able to manage the filming as well," the mayor said.

While nothing is firmed up with the Nolan film in Tartu, it is certain that filming for another movie, this time from a large European company, is to take place in the city in August and September.

"Locations and budget have already been agreed," Kristiina Reidolv said. The film is a major period with locations situated in the city center and the Raadi district, it is reported.

Allfilm, the Estonian film production company working with Warner Bros. on Tenet, told Reidolv on Thursday afternoon that the desire is still to film in Tallinn but if that is not possible, Tartu is another option.

No response from Warner Bros. to reservations about the road closure has been reported in the Estonian media to date.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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