There were ten episodes, each lasting an hour, and the standard had to be of the high quality demanded by Netflix for an international series. And, in fact, it was hardly necessary to leave Malaga to film Warrior Nun, not even for the scenes that were supposedly set in the Vatican: the conclave in the Sistine Chapel was actually the choir of Malaga Cathedral, and the rooms inside the Vatican were really in the old Customs building.
That is the magic of filming for the big screen and for TV. That same magic also turned Calle Molina Lario in Malaga into a part of the Australian city of Brisbane, in the fourth season of The Crown.
Hollywood is paying tribute to the work of location expert Tate Araéz in these series, with two nominations for the Location Managers Guild International Awards (LMGI), which are considered the Oscars of the profession. Aráez has been nominated in the category of best exteriors for a contemporary series, for Warrior Nun, and for the Spanish locations in a historical series for The Crown. On 23 October, we will know whether he has won.
"Being nominated is a prize in itself. Winning would be the best thing ever, I would be so happy," says Araéz, who is from Malaga.
It is not easy to get your name on this exclusive list of films and series selected from all those produced around the world every year, but it is not the first time he has been in this position. In fact, the Spanish exteriors in Game of Thrones - where one of the most spectacular battles of television was filmed with the famous dragons from the series - have already won him two LMGIs, and last year he was a candidate for the third season of The Crown. Bu the two nominations he has at present have a special aspect for him: Malaga features more than ever before in these two productions.
More than 90 per cent of Warrior Nun was filmed in the province, thanks to the efforts of the Fresco Film production company and its executive producer Peter Welter. "These locations showcase Malaga very well, its culture and the way of life, and the filming has also taken place in emblematic buildings," says Aráez.
These include the Collegiate Church in Antequera and Malaga Cathedral, which has not been used for an international production for 16 years, ever since Robert de Niro, Harvey Keitel, Gabriel Byrne and Kathy Bates walked through its doors for the British film The Bridge of San Luis Rey.
In Warrior Nun some streets of the city are instantly recognisable, and you can even see the local football team shirt that one of the characters steals from a shop. However, during the five months of filming, the warrior nuns were also seen in Marbella, Ronda, Rincón de la Victoria, Torre del Mar and Alhaurín de la Torre. The castle at Almodóvar del Río in Cordoba province and some locations in Seville were the only scenes shot outside Malaga province.
Warrior Nun will be fighting heavyweights like The Handmaid's Tale and Lupin for this award, in a section which also includes Woke, Yellowstone and The Mosquito Coast.
Malaga also has an important presence in The Crown. One of the images with the most impact in the fourth season was filmed from the top floor of the AC Malaga Palacio hotel, converted into a skyscraper in the Australian city of Brisbane during an official visit by the Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana.
"We had to put a crane on the terrace, check that it would support the weight and close the swimming pool," Aráez recalls. It was one of the most logistically complicated scenes of all. He says he was very grateful for the facilities provided by the Malaga Palacio and the Gran Hotel Miramar - for the scene where Gillian Anderson was playing the role of Margaret Thatcher - and also for all the support from the Malaga Film Office.
From La Concepción to Cártama
However, many other locations were used for filming The Crown, some more evident than others to those watching. Actors Emma Corrin (Diana) and Josh O'Connor (Charles) went to La Concepción botanic garden to film the scene where the prince and princess were supposed to be driving through Adelaide, the iconic iron bridge over the Guadalhorce, which was represented as in Darwin, the sports centre in Cártama for a polo match and the Monte Miramar palace for the meeting in Canberra with Australian prime minister Bob Hawke. The Castañón de Mena military residence was used for three different scenes: the pool is where Diana met a swimming team, the rear entrance to the building was used for her visit to a hospital in Sydney and the 18th century main staircase for the royal couple's arrival at a party.
Bridgerton, Fargo, Ratched, Snowfall and The Nevers are the other series competing with The Crown for an LMGI. These awards fill the gap which exists in the major international prizes, because the work of location managers is not included in those.
"We are very important, before and during the filming. Not only do we find the locations, we then manage them and do everything that's needed in logistical terms," says Aráez. And he, whenever he can, finds locations close to Malaga. "Because it's my home and I know it so well, but also because the climate is fantastic and there are so many impressive locations here," he says.
For the forthcoming season of The Crown, he has handed the reins of the locations in Spain - which this time will not be in Malaga - to his assistant. "I'm involved in something else, something bigger," he says, enigmatically. One day, our screens will reveal the answer to that mystery.