It’s hard to believe Scotland’s world-famous Misty Isle could be found lacking in the very stuff its legend is made of.
The backdrop for the new big-screen adaptation of Macbeth is as dark and brooding as the tortured lead character, brought to life by Hollywood heartthrob Michael Fassbender.
But despite atrocious wintry conditions during filming on the Isle of Skye last winter, special effects teams had to pipe in artificial mist and rain to create a suitably grim atmosphere for Aussie director Justin Kurzel’s gritty incarnation of the classic Shakespeare tragedy.
Specialists charged with creating a wide range of sinister backgrounds and props for the film were forced to build a bespoke tubing system in order to cover vast areas of the landscape in eerie mist.
Even more surprising during a shoot that encountered “all the wetness of the elements”, huge stands had to be set up to provide realistic downpours of fake rain.
“It was clear from the outset that Justin had a very clear idea of what he wanted,” said the film’s special effects supervisor Mike Kelt, of Artem.
“He was after a cold, atmospheric, misty, Scottish feel to permeate the film.
“The biggest challenge was covering vast areas of landscape with a consistent mist – whole hillsides had to disappear, enveloping armies and blotting out unwanted backgrounds.”
The weather was so bad during shooting near the spectacular Quiraing at Trotternish early last year that some cast members actually suffered hypothermia. Lead actor Fassbender said: “It was pretty much horizontal rain, there was sleet and I think we had a bit of snow as well. So all weathers.”
“It got pretty bad there,” according to British actor Paddy Considine, who played Banquo.
“A few people got hypothermia,” he said.
“We got hit by horizontal rain. It came and hit you sideways.”
Mr Kelt added: “In some respects Justin was lucky; we were often battling with the ‘real’ weather, which was atrocious throughout most of the filming, and a challenge for everyone on the production.
“On top of one Scottish hill we even grouped like Antarctic penguins, rotating positions to spread the pain. On that particular day we managed to cheer people up by finishing with a large burning pyre of bodies – something you might expect to be grim, but at least it offered some warmth. This can be seen near the start of the film.”
As well as mist, rain, smoke and fire, the “Scottish film” also required gallons of fake blood, prosthetic wounds and a lifelike full-size dummy of the murdered King Duncan.
Actor David Thewlis had his body cast to make the mannequin, which he said created quite a stir when it was left “lying around” .
And despite initial doubts, it proved so realistic he was able to finish his scenes early instead of playing dead. “Rain, mist, smoke, fire and burning embers are all key elements in the world of Macbeth, together with prosthetics and gore for the battle scenes,” said Aura Hastings-Smith, the film’s producer.
The star-studded UK premiere took place in Edinburgh on Sunday. It hits cinemas on Friday.