The 2012 American thriller “Zero Dark Thirty” utilized filming sites across four countries to authentically recreate the CIA’s decade-long hunt for 9/11 attack mastermind Osama Bin Laden.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the complex production took cast and crews to filming locations in India, Jordan, England and Poland from March to June 2012.
Cinematographer Greig Fraser, known for “Dune” and “The Batman”, manned the cameras as production designers Jeremy Hindle and Kulwant Maan built intricate sets to match real-world sites.
Zero Dark Thirty Filming Locations
A large portion of “Zero Dark Thirty” was shot in India. Filming in India costs less money compared to the United States and Europe. The diverse landscapes across India also appealed to the film’s crew.
Specific filming sites included:
Punjab and Haryana, India
Though set in Pakistan, many scenes were filmed in the northwest Indian states of Punjab and Haryana.
The capital city of Chandigarh substituted for Pakistan’s Abbottabad, where Bin Laden hid. An old fort in Mani Majra just outside Chandigarh depicted the Abbottabad compound.
In the movie, Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, substituted for Pakistan’s bustling Lahore with the city’s mix of modernist architecture and urban energy.
Sections of the Punjab Engineering College located in Chandigarh’s Sector 12 represented the exteriors of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad on-screen.
Busy market scenes of “Zero Dark Thirty” movie took place in Patiala, Punjab. An arrest scene happened at historic gardens in Haryana.
The lake and gardens of Sukhna Lake bordering Chandigarh gave the impression of the compound surroundings.
For interior shots of the compound, production built an exact replica of the Abbottabad structure on a Chandigarh soundstage.
Elsewhere in Punjab, the crew captured marketplace scenes in the colorful streets of Patiala.
In neighboring Haryana state, the arrest of a key suspect took place on the grounds of the Yadavindra Gardens, an elegant spot located along the Kalka-Shimla Highway.
The production filmed parts of “Zero Dark Thirty” in Amman, Jordan too. No Indian site matched the real Islamabad’s architecture.
Since director Kathryn Bigelow had shot scenes for “The Hurt Locker” in Amman, she knew the city could substitute for Pakistan’s capital.
Crews built a mock Pakistan compound by the Dead Sea on the Israel/Syria borders. They made the set strong enough for a helicopter crash stunt.
Beyond recreating Islamabad, Amman offered generic Middle East urban settings. Various movies like “Rosewater” and “Fair Game” have filmed there.
London, England, UK
Meetings set in London and Washington, D.C. were filmed on location in England’s capital. London is home to major TV and film studios. Blockbusters like “The Batman” and “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” have used London sites recently.
Situated on the Baltic Sea, Gdańsk has beautiful coastal views. Since rebuilding after WWII, Gdańsk has become a global hub for Amber trade. Other movies have used Gdańsk for its historic European architecture.
In addition to the primary shoots in India and Jordan, filming occurred briefly in the northern Polish city of Gdańsk. Featured in just a handful of shots, the Baltic port stood in for CIA offices and operations rooms through its Soviet-era structures.
Gdańsk’s shipbuilding history and East German architectural influences offer filmmakers a unique texture quite distinct from Western European cities. Since its extensive rebuilding in the 1990s, Gdańsk has attracted several international productions.
Do you know about any other Zero Dark Thirty location that we have missed? Feel free to mention that in the comments section.
Where to watch Zero Dark Thirty online?
Zero Dark Thirty is currently streaming on Starz and DirecTV inside the United States.
The movie is also available for rent or purchase on Apple TV, Amazon, YouTube Movies, Google Play, VUDU, Microsoft Store, and Spectrum in US, UK, Canada, Australia, and United Kingdom.
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