Bavaria Film Studio, Munich

The Bavaria Film Studio is in the suburb of Geiselgasteig, south of Munich and is a 'forty-minute' drive from Deining where the McQueen's lived during the filming of The Great Escape, May 1962.

 

The map shows the layout of the Bavaria Film studio and NUMBER 11 on the map represents studio 4/5 where The Great Escape interiors were filmed. David McCallum reports that the tunnel in the film ran the whole length of the studio.

The construction of the camp in the Geiselgasteig forest commenced in February 1962.

 Nobody at the Bavaria Film Studio actually knew where the original site was....HOWEVER, if you return to the Homepage and click on THE MAKING OF THE GREAT ESCAPE PART 1 video and drag along the time line you can actually see where the camp was sited (start at 8:20 and finish at 8:32).......to the left of the Studios.

But this is WRONG !!

On the 6th August 2012, a member of the Bavaria Studios took us to an obscure wooden office to the north of number 6 on the map below. He brought out a black & white map on a wooden board which showed us where exactly the camp was built.

The camp was built to the NORTH of number 1 on the map below..............and today it can be located by finding the large antenna. The camp would have been either side of this tall antenna....

It is suggested that The Great Escape 'camp' is to the north of the football pitch....

 

Where is the exact location of The Great Escape Camp?

(James Clavell and W R Burnett with John Sturges)

 

The camp is located in the top right corner of the black & white photograph below.

Point of reference: A road to the north of the camp travels towards a bridge which crosses a railway line half way along the black & white photograph below. To locate the camp today refer to the Google Earth map below. At the cross road there is a small image of a house on the right. This building still exists today and if you match this eastward bound road to the camp map labelled: (A) map   you will realise that if you walk from this house in an eastward direction along this road, then you will be walking along the northern part of The Great Escape camp fifty years later !!  Enjoy the experience....

The house image can be seen on the right side of the pathway.....................which is at the end of the pathway.

This map of Bavaria Studios and The Great Escape 'Camp' was provided by an executive called Frank, who had it pinned up on a wall in his Bavaria Studios office...

   

A road appears to run around the outside of the camp. This would allow for cranes and cameras to be erected. The row of trees on the right side of the photograph below is interesting because Steve McQueen's opening scene is situated to the left of these trees and he is thinking about throwing his baseball onto the 'out of bounds' part of the camp.

(A) map  The row of 'white' objects to the bottom left hand side of the photograph maybe the 'stars' caravans to 'rest' in while they waited for their scene to be shot...........

Click on the photograph of the hut below for more photographs and this junction is the reference point to where the camp was located back in 1962....

Match this derelict hut with the above black and white photograph of the hut in the top left hand corner....

The reference point to where the camp is located is the tall Antenna in the bottom right side of the photograph below (500 yards by 300 yards).

The pine trees were quite thin and a comparison can be made between those in the film and with those that exist today....

American actor Steve McQueen and his Triumph on the set of the film The Great Escape (1962).

"Generally Steve was a nervous wreck for the week or two prior to principal photography. I learned to recognize the signs. He'd break out with a fever blister and generally act like a caged animal while he thought about and got a fix on his character. Those were the times when I'd let him "run free." I would make no demands on him nor make any inquiries as to his whereabouts. I gave him a lot of rope and this worked well for us." (p.115)

(Road leading to the entrance of the Bavaria Film Studios)

Studio 4/5 were used for the filming of The Great Escape.

Wally Floody explaining how the device was used during the escape....

The prisoners used what was available within the compound to dig a 25-foot-deep, 348-foot-long tunnel, complete with track and trolley, air pump and lights, spliced into the camp's electrical system.

 

" The tunnel was wonderful because it was a big stage at Geiselgasteig. They ran the entire length of the studio. And with just one side cut open. So it was a silly looking set. It was mostly construction that you saw. But when you got close. You just saw into the tunnel with one side. And that meant that people could go flying through the tunnel on these little trolley cars with the camera hurtling alongside." (David McCallum).

(Make-up Emile La Vigne and Wardrobe - Bert Henrikson)

"But the part of Virgil Hilts was still ambiguous. Hilts had no real personality. He was bland and he was boring. Steve knew that, given this cast, unless he came up with something interesting for this role he would blend in with the scenery......John Sturges, who was Steve's mentor, was trying to solve the problem.

As I recall Steve quit the film and rejoined it and was fired and rehired at least twice." (p.115)

The camp was located near the Bavaria Film Studio but the 'exact' set design is unsure. Apparently, four hundred trees were cut down to make a clearing so that a full-scale replica of Stalag Luft III (located in what is now Zagan near the Polish border) could be built right in the middle of the forest. The camp area, recreated by the design team from historical research, covered approximately 500 yards by 300 yards and took about six weeks to build. The 'wall of trees in the background' would give a sense of the prison-outside-the-prison.

After finishing the film, the camp would be bulldozed and the film crew would re-plant two trees for every one that had been cut down

 

Aerial reconnaissance photograph of Stalag Luft 3. The railway station that many escapers headed for is top right. Catalogue reference: AIR 40/229.           PODCAST

   

   

These previously unseen cartoons form an amazing day-to-day diary of life in the Prisoner of War camp immortalised in the Hollywood classic The Great Escape. They were drawn in 1944 by John Bridges, an American air force serviceman being held in Germany's 'escape proof' Stalag Luft III. And they formed part of a war time log compiled just weeks after 50 allied POWs were executed on the orders of Hitler for staging the breakout which was later featured in the 1963 Steve McQueen movie.

McQueen handled props with an expertise rarely achieved by an actor. He had the drive of a perfectionist and the need to master new challenges better than anybody else.

 

(Rehearsing the scene - McQueen is wearing no leather jacket and the paper cups suggest where the line of machine fire would be in the film)

Jack Linkletter interviews  Steve McQueen on the set of "The Great Escape" in Munich, Germany (Here's Hollywood - 8/7/62 - 17 minutes)

McQueen and Bud Ekins discuss how to perform the 'jump' on a backlot on the set of The Great Escape...

 

 

"For good luck Steve wanted to wear the same sort of cut off sweat shirt I had accidentally fashioned for him in Never So Few, only this would be a well-worn navy blue one. If anybody were to ask me what single moment in Steve's films could be pointed to as the jump-off point for his phenomenal career, my answer would have to be Steve's (in the person of friend and stuntman Bud Ekins) jump over that fence in The Great Escape." (p.116)

Scenes in the hut not used in the film...

"Another piece of business that evolved spontaneously was Virgil Hilts' use of a baseball and mitt."

"Steve and John disappeared into that little prison cell used in the movie, and two hours later John emerged and asked "Beady-Eyes," the prop man, to get Steve the new props." (page 116)

Steve McQueen, director John Sturges and technical advisor Wally Floody between scenes. August 1962

 

(Steve McQueen with Canadian Wally Floody, aka "the Tunnel King," a former POW who was actually part of the real Great Escape plan and acted as technical advisor on the film)

 

(James Garner, Wally Floody and Steve McQueen)

Garner and McQueen posing in front of a picture of the survivors of the mass escape.

" Sturges was not the most talkative guy," but even when things got testy on location, "he didn't yell or carry on." ( Escape Artist, p.82)

'Film at its best is about reacting, not acting, he said.' (p.113)

"John was extremely patient with Steve as he struggled to find a way to make Hilts memorable. As Jim Coburn has said, "The thing was to get the film right. Steve obviously wasn't wrong because the film was a huge success. He had a special sense. He knew what was right for him and saw to it that everything was in that slot." (p.116)

 

"John Sturges taught him about reining in. Steve tended to overplay things, especially in comedic scenes, and John, ever the consummate director, would take him aside and quietly suggest to him, "Look, Steve, this is a minor thing but if you stay at this level throughout the film you will drive everybody out of the theatre." (p.116)

Sturges described McQueen's acting style as "reactive, like James Dean in Giant."

"Another thing John had to work on with Steve was his dislike of words. Here was an actor who was more comfortable with playing emotions than using words, and John handled him very carefully and told him that "you simply cannot stand there and just make faces. You have to speak or they won't know who you are and what you're thinking." While Steve always responded to John's direction, he remained forever partial to reacting." (page 117)

Charles Bronson was a sort of melancholy type, who had worked in a coal mine with his brother as a kid so he was a natural for Danny, the tunneler who's afraid to go back down into the tunnel stated Sturges.

Richard Attenborough discussing a scene with John Sturges....

John Sturges and "the cast of a lifetime" - James Coburn, Steve McQueen and Charles 'Weed Soup' Bronson - outside the POW compound built for The Great Escape.

Much of the film was shot in and around Bavaria Film Studios in Geiselgasteig, Germany in June 1962.                        

" Bronson......sat around shirtless, recounting.......his grim youth in the coalfields of Pennsylvania, subsisting on weed soup."

(Escape Artist p.205)

 

 

(photo originally taken by Kathy Sturges)

 

 

(Steve McQueen playing around on the Backlot of Bavaria Studios)

 

 

 A camera crew, including American director of photography Daniel L. Fapp (1904 - 1986) (standing, in glasses) sits on a mobile crane just outside the wire fence of a prisoner of war camp on the set of the film 'The Great Escape,' directed by John Sturges, Germany, 1963.

 

Sturges and his cameraman, Walter Riml (in white), prepare a crane shot of Stalag Luft III. James Garner and Richard Attenborough (right foreground) look on.

The crew

Click on the photograph of John Leyton, who is still singing and performing across the country at a variety of venues, to view his official website.

DELETED SCENE FROM THE GREAT ESCAPE
David McCallum as Ashley-Pitt and Steve McQueen as Hilts get soused while celebrating the 4th July with homemade moonshine. The scene was ultimately removed from the final release cut of The Great Escape.

 

 

McQueen watching Sturges and Cinematographer Daniel Fapp at work.

 

 

 

   

McQueen entertaining his fellow co-stars on the set (William Russell, Tom Adams and James Coburn)

 

(Call sheet of the shooting on 7th. September 1962)

 

(Grunwald Castle, Munich near Bavaria Studios)

Because he was dyslexic, his wife, Neile, read him the script. Wife Neile helps McQueen on his role. By 1963, he was already well known in the film industryfor altering final screenplay drafts to his own needs and talents. His intuition for what worked best for him enhanced his performances and helped to make him a star.

Steve McQueen in a studio still shot from The Great Escape.

"I first met him during the summer of 1962 in Bavaria where John Sturges was shooting The Great Escape. This was my big international acting break-through and just three members of the all-male cast were billed above the title: Steve as the Cooler King, Jim Garner as the Scrounger and me as Big X. And right from the outset, both on-screen and off, there was this intense macho rivalry between the Brits and the Yanks."

(Entirely Up to You, Darling-Richard Attenborough page 232)

 

McQueen practicing with a side car.

"It came to a head when the two separate groups were lounging around in the sun during an early break from shooting. As always when time hung heavy, Steve was riding his 500cc Triumph, zooming off between the POW camp huts and returning to skid around us Brits in ever decreasing dusty circles. Finally, those piercing blue eyes hidden behind dark glasses, he came to a halt beside me and sat there, twisting the throttle provocatively. 'Wanna ride?'

Fatally, I hesitated. It was thirty years since I'd ridden pillion and, having been rushed to hospital as a result, had sworn I'd never ever do it again. But national honour was at stake here and I knew I couldn't refuse the challenge.

'You bet,' I said heartily, climbing on behind.

Although they cemented our friendship and united the cast, the fifteen minutes which followed, as I clung on for dear life, were the most terrifying I can remember."

"Steve was a speed freak. He was devastated when the film's insurers ruled against him performing the most famous motorbike stunt in movie history but never took the credit for it, always being careful to point out it was performed by his pal and double, Bud Ekins. What did give him immense pleasure was dressing up as one of the Germans chasing Bud towards the wire.

There's a perception that Steve was anathema to screenwriters, always angling to make his parts bigger. That, in my experience, is completely untrue. In fact, he was a minimalist, forever fighting to cut lines because he knew, better than anyone, that one telling look is worth any amount of dialogue." (page 232)

 

 Munich