Everyone who loves Wes Anderson films (like me) knows that the aesthetic is so micro-managed that most of the scenery is either the result of special effects or a studio set. There are notable exceptions, of course. But when one of his films is mostly set on a comically unrealistic boat, you know not to expect too many The Life Aquatic filming locations. Because there are very few. Very few indeed.
But! The ones that do exist are worth mentioning.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) has director Wes Anderson’s trademark all-star cast. Bill Murray is the titular Steve, an oceanographer hell-bent on capturing the “jaguar shark” who ate his best friend Esteban for his next documentary. He and his crew (including his estranged son Ned, played by Owen Wilson) sail on his stylised sea vessel, the Belafonte, in order to complete their mission.
Because most of the film takes place on this boat, Anderson shot most of The Life Aquatic in Cinecittà Studios, Rome. But there are a handful of beautiful The Life Aquatic film locations on dry land elsewhere in Italy. Let’s take a look and see what they are.
Where Was The Life Aquatic Filmed?
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Filming Locations in Italy
1. San Carlo Theatre, Naples, Campania
The first The Life Aquatic location is the interior of the cinema/theatre hosting the film screening, the Loquasto. It’s supposed to be somewhere in Italy, but we’re not sure where. Anderson shot this scene at the San Carlo Theatre in Naples. It’s a very grand, old and ornate opera house which makes sense because it’s far too pretty to be a cinema!
Steve holds a Q&A here and starts a fight in the lobby when someone insults his deceased friend.
2. Torre Astura, Nettuno, Rome
And the next The Life Aquatic film location comes thick and fast. Considering there are very few The Life Aquatic locations, it’s not good that they are half over within the first 90 seconds of the movie.
The location appears in the opening frame of Steve Zissou’s movie Adventure No.12 “The Jaguar Shark” (Part 1) that is playing at the film festival or screening, whatever it is. In the film within the film, the location is Steve’s home base/compound on Pescespada Island in the Obiamiwe Peninsula. This is a fake region (I assume) somewhere off the west coast of Africa. In reality, it is a tower/fort called Torre Astura in Nettuno on the coast of Italy slightly further south of Rome.
And for those of you out there who are Italian speakers, I’m sure you noticed straight away that “pesce spada” translates to “swordfish.” This location pops up again as the Zissou crew prepares to set sail and commence their search for the Jaguar Shark. I think there are some CGI enhancements at play because it looks a lot like an abandoned ruined tower in real life.
3. Porto di Ponza Island, Ponziane Islands, Latina, Lazio
Just over halfway into the movie and we’re back on dry land for the next The Life Aquatic filming location. After his mortal enemy Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum) rescues him out at sea, Hennessey’s much larger boat tows the Belafonte into Port-au-Patois Harbour. Hennessey owns Port-au-Patois and Steve’s wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston) is “summering” there while she is angry at Steve. I’m not sure exactly where in the world the island is. Just somewhere remote, I guess?
Anderson shot these harbour scenes at Porto di Ponza on Ponza Island far out from the coast but kind of near Naples. It looks like a rather gorgeous, pastel-coloured port and off the usual Italian tourist trail.
4. Villa Della Panetteria, Rome
After the screening of Part 2 of Steve’s film, he sits outside the Loquesto theatre on some steps covered with a glitzy red carpet that’s lined with candles. A heck of a lot has happened in the last quarter of the film, and there’s a lot to reflect on. Again, we’re not 100% sure whereabouts the Italian theatre is. But in reality, he is on the stair part of Villa Della Panetteria in Rome. It is not too far from the Quirinal Palace.
As the crowds leave the theatre, Steve puts the young boy in lederhosen sitting next to him (yes, weird) onto his shoulders and carries him down the stairs. They turn right onto Vicolo Scanderberg and the movie ends.
And those are all The Life Aquatic filming locations in Italy! Have you watched the film or visited any of the film locations? Let me know in the comments below!