Stuntman-turned-action director Nick Powell takes us on a deadly cruise in ‘Primal.’ The 2019 film stars Nicholas Cage as Frank Walsh, a poacher on his way to sell captured exotic animals. His prized catch is a 400 lbs white jaguar that he needs to transport via sea. The ship he hires for the task also happens to be transporting a captured international assassin (Kevin Durand). Soon after the ship sets sail, the hitman breaks loose and releases all the animals trapped within the ship as he dismantles the security teams guarding him.
It falls on the grizzled hunter to recapture both apex predators while navigating the labyrinthine insides of the cargo ship. The draw of the film revolves around its confined and maze-like battleground, which creates a sense of uneasy anticipation of what will be around the next corner. With such a unique setting, one might be curious as to where filming for the action thriller movie took place and if a real ship was used.
Primal Was Filmed in Puerto Rico
Principal photography of ‘Primal’ was carried out almost entirely in San Juan and Ceiba, Puerto Rico, within an actual ship. The filming commenced on April 9, 2018, and carried on for a few weeks before concluding on May 14, 2018. Let’s take a look at the specific locations where the scenes were shot.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
‘Primal’ was filmed in San Juan, the capital city of the unincorporated territory of Puerto Rico, housing its busiest port. The city hosts 16th-century Spanish architecture, including forts and colonial buildings. It has become a fast-growing hub for tourism with its nightlife and casinos, having a higher GDP per capita than any Latin American country. Filming for ‘Primal’ was done in and around the city but largely onboard a ship docked in the San Juan port.
Nic saw a Baconator billboard on the way to set, well placed marketing won today… Haha 👊🏾 #PrimalFilm 🇵🇷 #NicCage #MichaelImperioli #FamkeJanssen #KevinDurand @Wendys #PuertoRico #ActionFilm 💪🏾 pic.twitter.com/ydcol9tjpM
— LaMonica Garrett (@lamonicagarrett) April 30, 2018
In an interview with Screen Anarchy, Nick Powell talks about coming across a ship that was about to be scrapped and putting it to use for the film. “We managed to find a boat in Puerto Rico that they were about to demolish and destroy, an old boat but it had so much texture and character that once we’ve seen it, it was obvious that we had to shoot there.” He goes on to state the importance of having a claustrophobic atmosphere, with appropriate lighting to create uncertainty and suspense, which he found in that ship.
— LaMonica Garrett (@lamonicagarrett) April 29, 2018
In the tweet above, the Cemex Domo (Cement Manufacturing) plant can be observed from Pier 16, where the film crew’s ship was docked at the port of San Juan. Additionally, Nicholas Cage was also spotted out on lunch at a nearby restaurant. The port is home to oil refineries, industrial facilities, container terminals, and cruise ships. The territory of Puerto Rico was chosen for the film because of its script originating from a Puerto Rican producer, Luillo Ruiz. According to Powell, Ruiz took care of arranging everything that was needed and made sure everything worked smoothly.
The governor of Puerto Rico had welcomed the film crew with open arms, hailing the $33 million project as a sign of the territory becoming a conducive landscape for Hollywood. Between 2017 and 2018, the film industry contributed around $200 million and generated approximately 14,000 direct jobs within their local economy. The territory has seen several big-budget films lensing scenes in the tropical paradise, including, ‘Blue Beetle,’ ‘The Suicide Squad,’ ‘Captain America: Civil War,’ ‘Plane,’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.’
Ceiba, Puerto Rico
The small municipality of Ceiba in northeast Puerto Rico is known for its stunning beaches and greenery, especially in El Yunque National Forest. The cast and crew of ‘Primal’ chose the backdrop of the jungle to lens the hunt of the white jaguar, which sees Frank high up on a tree, with the big cat jumping up to reach him. For the uninitiated, the town is named after the Ceiba tree, which was believed by the Mayans to hold the universe by four ceibas positioned in the north, east, south, and west. Similarly, the Tikunas people of the Amazon believe the ceiba tree to be the embodiment of the tree of life. As per their belief, the Amazon came into existence when the original colossal ceiba tree fell, giving rise to the Amazon River and its tributaries.
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