The Belafonte – Life After The Aquatic With Steve Zissou

the life aqautic

Whatever Happened To The Belafonte?

As much a character as Bill Murray’s obsessively colourful sea-faring explorer in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, his ship The Belafonte has had an eventful life on the high seas. Originally commissioned HMS Packington in 1958 as a minesweeper in the British Royal Navy, the tub was sold on to the South African navy and rechristened SAS Walvisbaai, before being purchased by the production in Cape Town and towed to Italy. It was then remodelled for location filming, where musician and actor Seu Jorge (Pele) would often be found whimsically crooning David Bowie classics in Portuguese on its decks.

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The Belafonte was also doubled in Rome’s Cinecittà Studios with a cheeky life-sized cross-section, or diorama, where each detail of the Jacques Cousteau modelled explorer’s vessel, including mini-sub, helicopter and its two “supposedly very intelligent” albino scout dolphins, was lovingly revealed in its own introduction.

The song “Let Me Tell You About My Boat” by the film’s composer Mark Mothersbaugh, which plays over the above sequence , is actually the melody of the song “Scrapping & Yelling,” which Mothersbaugh wrote for Anderson’s film The Royal Tenenbaums, played backwards.  Cinematographer Robert Yeoman recalls:

“I went over there a few days before we shot that sequence and we took our widest lens, and even with our backs against the wall, we couldn’t get the whole boat in the shot! We knew that was not gonna be acceptable. Mark (Friedberg, the Production Designer) had given me a few extra feet behind the boat so I could hide lights behind it, and so they had to physically drag the boat back against the wall for that extra ten feet — and it was huge. I called Panavision in a panic and asked, “Do you have any wider lenses? Send them immediately!” Literally, we had to shoot the whole scene with the camera outside the stage looking through the door in order to get that shot. It was a nail-biter for both Mark and myself.”

Since filming, The Belafonte has gone up in the world. Bought by a Dubai based millionaire in 2006 and kitted out with luxurious fittings and deck extension (check out the sunken pool within the Brazilian teak deck where the helicopter pad once was), the boat, now the yacht Mojo, is up for sale (Glocks optional).

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Champagne and lobster while indulging in a spot of Jaguar-Shark hunting, anyone?

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