“Action!” – commands the director. His words seem to have turned on some kind of Time Machine. We find ourselves in the middle of a 17th century sea battle. An enemy frigate, the English flag streaming in the wind, rushes full sail and approaches the “Shtandart”. Officers’ commands and fierce yells ring through the shooting. Gloomy sailors in ancient costumes push canons and wave muskets. Something explodes on the deck, a stunt man falls from the yard, a grey dust cloud fills the air, and the next moment the deck is covered with wooden chips. That’s how an ordinary day on the “Shtandart” looks like this week.
“The Admiral”, a historical movie, is being filmed in the harbour of the quite city of Lelystad. The “Shtandart“ is involved in it as well as French "Etoile du Roy” and legendary Dutch “Batavia”. This is one of the biggest movies ever filmed in the Netherlands. The director, Roel Reinѐ, works in Hollywood, but he has come to the Netherlands to make this movie. Charles Dance, the British actor known in Russia for the role of Tywin Lannister in the TV series “Game of Thrones”, plays one of the leading parts – King Charles II. However, the star has never set foot onboard, his part being shot in other cities.
The movie is devoted to the Dutch admiral Michiel de Ruyter. “Bestevaêr” (his nickname is older Dutch for 'grandfather') defended his motherland from the French and the British and kept pirates at bay. Enemies respected him so much that, when they found that the admiral was fatally wounded, they ceased fire and escorted his ship back home. It happened in April, 1676, after de Ruyter had led a small Dutch army to attack a much greater French fleet.
“It took us 6 years to prepare everything and do the historical research,” - told the director’s assistant, Koen Vanderknaap. “De Ruyter is a national hero in the Netherlands, and we are trying to make our film as realistic as possible.”
There are some special effect experts among those who are responsible for the authenticity, for example Alex Gunn. He has worked as a special effects supervisor on the biggest titles: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Troy, Rambo, Expendables and Expendables 2. His colleague Yovko Dogandzhiyskiy from Bulgaria also worked in “Expendables” and “Conan”. Yovko usually appears onboard silently with a red case in his hands. There is a control panel inside it. Like a true wizard he can make the rain fall or create quite a believable explosion.
“To create a believable explosion you have to know how the real one looks like. There are many ways to explode things. This time we are using wooden chips, dust and bottles of compressed air. You just release the air, and all the stuff goes out, looking like a real bang.”
The crew have been given historical costumes, make-up specialists have made our faces and hands look dirty, girls are dressed up as men, because in the 17th century women were not allowed on ships. Our roles are simple – we have to run on the deck, panic, charge the canons and fall dead after explosions. Some impressive “sea dogs” have been brought on to help us. Most of them take part in the movie just for fun, but there are those who’ve come here mainly because of tall ships.
“I have been dreaming of it since I was little,” said one of the actors, Hans. “I like your ship so much! She is not too big and not too small – exactly what is needed. I don’t want to leave it, this is unforgettable experience.”
Most of the actors have never been in the sea, let aside on tall ships. The “Shtandart” crew helped them to gain some simple seamanship skills and taught them how to pull and coil the ropes. De Ruyter himself asked us for some advice for one of the scenes where he is giving commands standing on the bridge of the “Shtandart”.
“I asked the crew members: which command is usually given, when you need to turn a ship to the right. Then we discussed how to translate it into Dutch correctly. I hope it was right,” said the leading actor Frank Lammers.
The director gives a command, and we are setting and hoisting sails, maneuvering and changing Dutch and English flags, as the “Shtandart” has to play 4 different ships at the same time. We have even tried to cause some wind for the sake of cinematography.
The film is not sure to be shown in Russia yet. In Holland it will be released in February, 2015.