South Africa’s Northern Cape plays a starring role in new ITV Choice series, Tutankhamun, starring Max Irons and Sam Neill. The show, which airs on DStv channel 123 on Thursday, November 10 at 8pm, was filmed in the region, parts of which were transformed into Egypt’s famous Valley of the Kings.
Tutankhamun is based on the compelling story of Howard Carter (Irons) and his discovery of the tomb of one of Ancient Egypt’s forgotten pharaohs, the boy-king, Tutankhamun. Neill takes the role of the dashing and eccentric Lord Carnarvon who keeps faith with Carter and continues to back his expeditions when no one else will.
The story, written by Guy Burt (The Borgias) focuses on the legendary personal story of Carter, a solitary man on the edge of society who became an iconic figure and an unlikely hero.
Said director Peter Webber (Girl with a Pearl Earring, Hannibal Rising) of the series’ location: “There are not many jobs in this world where you get to build an exact-to-scale, minutely detailed, life-size replica of Tutankhamun’s tomb.”
During the shoot, Webber’s social media posts showed a set filled with canvas tents, extras with pith helmets and beards, donkeys and khaki-clad soldiers. A few days into filming, the director tweeted: “It’s tough shooting here – dust, dust, more dust and infernal heat.”
After shooting on location the production moved to Cape Town for studio work.
Set against the great sweep of ochre sands, looming cliffs and baking heat of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, the story unfolds in 1905 when Carter, an eminent British archaeologist who we meet in his early 20s, is fervently leading an expedition.
Amidst the chaos scattered across the Valley floor, Carter’s grim determination to find lost antiquities is only too apparent. He has an easy manner with the Egyptian men who work alongside him, but when tempers fray Carter is hot-headed and puts the dig and his career in jeopardy.
With his license to dig revoked by Cairo’s Antiquities Service, Carter spends years ostracised, dishevelled and living rough and resorting to selling previously discovered archaeological relics to buy food.
A chance meeting with the privileged and fast living British aristocrat, Lord Carnarvon, brings a change of fortunes as the enthusiastic amateur needs an experienced archaeologist to help him with a series of random excavations.
Carter and Carnarvon begin the most unlikely friendship, in spite of their differences in background and character. And, after years of searching for the tomb, they successfully discover the last resting place of the boy-king in 1921 against all odds and at great personal expense.
Watch the trailer here: