Oprah Winfrey never planned on being in Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time – until the director, her friend Ava DuVernay, told her that shooting locations included New Zealand. ‘Sold. I’m coming,’ said Winfrey.
During the film’s Central Otago shoot in February 2017, DuVernay, Winfrey and co-stars Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and 13-year-old Storm Reid, weren’t shy in bragging about working in some of New Zealand’s most beautiful locations, posting dozens of pictures on social media – including plenty of hot tubs overlooking Lake Wanaka. ‘You can’t not feel the sense of reverence and awe here,’ said Winfrey.
The film, based on the classic 1962 children’s science fantasy book by Madeleine L’Engle and a screenplay by Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell, follows 13-year-old Meg Murry and her companions as she attempts to rescue her father, a scientist lost in space. New Zealand, with its varied, dramatic scenery, highly qualified film crews and favourable tax breaks, was the perfect choice to stand in for some of the fantastical planets the children visit on their journey.
Here are the film’s most stunning New Zealand locations.
1. Lake Hawea
The utopian planet of Uriel – where Meg (Reid), her brother Charles Wallace and friend Calvin arrive first on their cosmic rescue mission – was filmed on the shores of Lake Hawea. Surrounded by farmland and dotted with back-to-basics baches (simple holiday homes), Lake Hawea has traditionally been a more peaceful neighbour to Wanaka and Queenstown on the South Island. The Uriel scenes were shot not far from Hunter Valley Station. The sheep farm is the essence of New Zealand and there are lots of walks you can do around the area. Camp at the Kidds Bush Reserve campsite to soak up some rural utopian bliss for yourself.
2. Lake Pukaki
A brilliant milky blue thanks to a fine silt of powdered rock created as glaciers inch their way across land, Lake Pukaki is fed by the snow of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook. Scenes for Uriel were shot on the lakeshore to make the most of this colour, with the background featuring enormous digitally altered towers of leaning rock. It’s here that Reese Witherspoon’s character Mrs Whatsit twirls and transforms into a flying green creature, and the lake also appears in the background in an action-packed falling scene. It was all filmed near Glentanner, a tiny settlement with scenic helicopter, horse trekking, heli-skiing and farm tours.
A scene from the dark planet Camazotz was shot on a privately owned sheep farm near Twizel, where a 12-hectare hayfield of long, waving barley and rye grass set the mood for Camazotz’s unnerving tension. A 40-minute drive from Mount Cook, Twizel is mostly a base to explore the stunning surroundings – it was built to service nearby hydropower projects in the 1960s but survived the bulldozers. Today it offers plenty of New Zealand country charm, with expansive mountain views.
4. Mount Cook National Park
Mount Cook also features in the background of scenes from Uriel. An accessible alpine village, it’s one of the most stunning spots in New Zealand. Members of the cast stayed at Mount Cook Lakeside Retreat (pictured), a luxury lodge on the shores of Lake Pukaki; as well as The Hermitage Hotel, a quintessential alpine lodge near Mount Cook. The area offers plenty of day walks and other activities for the less alpine-inclined.