This year, once again, and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its opening to the public, Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, less than an hour from Paris, has opened its doors for a unique behind-the-scenes experience into the magic of movie making — with something for everyone.
A fairytale castle and gardens: the most beautiful film set in the world
The 17th century castle that inspired Versailles has been the setting for some eighty films including Marie-Antoinette, Valmont, The Three Musketeers, Molière, Man In The Iron Mask (with Leonardo DiCaprio), Gene Wilder’s Start The Revolution Without Me, Versailles the series and, most recently, L’Empereur de Paris starring Vincent Cassel.
With the entire ground floor of the castle dedicated to film-making, this year’s exhibit features not only spectacular sets and dazzling period costumes but interactive activities, guided tours (don’t miss the dungeon and kitchens downstairs!), astonishing virtual visuals, special effects make-up workshops, plus more surprises in store.
In room after sumptuous room decorated with art and furnishings of the period, signs are set out to indicate where a specific film scene was shot.
Projections of exclusive interviews take place in the Galerie d’Architecture. In La Grande Chambre Carrée where Start The Revolution Without Me was filmed in 1968, Orson Welles is the narrator of this comedy based on The French Revolution.
New this year, in the Grand Salon visitors can don a headset and gasp as they’re plunged into an astonishing world of virtual reality: a 360-degree experience shows what it’s like to be in the middle of filming a scene. A turn of the head and behind, the director, the crew, the make-up and cameras – all “live” – with the spectator smack in the middle of all the action.
Besides a display of Madeline Fontaine’s resplendent costumes meticulously designed and recreated for the series Versailles, another exciting exhibit has participants seemingly soaring in a hot-air balloon, showing how special effects are done in the movies.And, in homage to Sir Roger Moore who died last year and who played James Bond in Moonraker, filmed at the château, a special exhibition has been added.
Thanks to “The James Bond Club” the helicopter from the scene in the 1979 film will be on display. Every Saturday, two lucky winners will be taken up for a helicopter ride for exhilarating aerial views of the château and surroundings, as in the famous scene when 007 catches sight of this magnificent castle for the first time.
For all ages.
Barbara Pasquet James is a U.S. lifestyle editor, speaker, and urban explorer who writes about food fashion and culture, from Paris. She is known for helping launch, write and edit USA Today’s City Guide To Paris and can be contacted via her photo blog FocusOnParis.com