Where was The Eiger Sanction filmed?
Los Angeles, Ca; Zurich, Grindelwald
Naturescapes, Clubs/Bars, Hotels/Motels, Studios
Luxury Hotel, Desert
About The Eiger Sanction
Rodney William Whitaker penned novels under the moniker Trevanian and wrote “The Eiger Sanction” in 1972. The riveting publication served as the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s 1975 action thriller.
Eastwood directed and personified Dr. Jonathan Hemlock in the film. The plot centers on the art history professor’s epic adventures as a mountaineer and former assassin. He is forced out of retirement by Dragon (Thayer David), the director of a secret government organization called C2.
Knowing that Hemlock has a private art collection amassed in his former line of duty, Dragon blackmails him into taking a double “sanction” job. The targets had a hand in the murder of a C2 agent who went by the code name Wormwood. Following the first hit, Hemlock receives a $20,000 payment and a letter clearing him of any potential trouble with the Internal Revenue Authority (IRS).
On his return to Europe, a C2 courier called Jemima Brown (Vonetta McGee) seduces him and makes away with the IRS exemption letter plus the money. His hands are tied forcing him to proceed with the second sanction. He fully gets on board after learning that his old friend Henri Baq is the C2 agent who was killed.
Hemlock also survives an attempt on his life by a former ally turned enemy, Miles Mellough (Jack Cassidy). To carry out the next hit, he joins a Switzerland climbing team on a mission to scale the Eiger north face. The second sanction is on an unidentified person only identifiable by his limp.
Ben Bowman (George Kennedy), who whips Hemlock back in shape ahead of the climb, accompanies him on the expedition. The treacherous climb claims the lives of the three other mountaineers, and it fools the C2 agency into thinking that he did away with the target.
During the climb, Hemlock discovers that Bowman was behind Wormwood’s death all along. With Bowman saving his life and the two making amends, they agree to let things be.
The Eiger Sanction Locations
The Eiger Sanction production was filmed on location in Switzerland, and that was one of the appeals that convinced Eastwood to take up the project. Initially, Universal Studio cast Paul Newman in the lead role but he later opted out of the role citing its violent content. When Eastwood got onboard, shooting the film on location distanced him to some extent from the clutches of the studio.
Filming commenced in August 1974 and concluded in late September. During the pre-production process, Eastwood, who did some climbing in his youth, worked with mountaineer Mike Hoover so that he could look professional for the climbing scenes. Hoover also took on the role of the principal cameraman for some of the climbing sequences.
In July 1974, Eastwood, Hoover, and Kennedy traveled to Monument Valley, on the Arizona-Utah border, to shoot a practice climb sequence. There is more to explore about the filming location of The Eiger Sanction alongside details about some of the film’s epic scenes.
Eastwood performed all his character's stunts in the film, except for the 2,500-foot-drop. For that particular scene, a dummy served as his stunt double.
Bowman saves Hemlock scene in The Eiger Sanction
Eiger, Bernese Alps, Switzerland
The second sanction unfolds while Hemlock, Bowman, and three other climbers scale the Eiger north face. During the treacherous climb, Jean-Paul Montaigne (Jean-Pierre Bernard), the French mountaineer, is the first to lose his life after a falling rock strikes him.
Even with the odds stacked against them, Anderl Meyer (Micahel Grimm), the Austrian climber, offers an optimistic response to Hemlock who tries to reassure him that they’ll make it through the climb. "I don't think so. But we shall continue with style."
Later Meyer and the German mountaineer Karl Freytag (Reiner Schöne) also fall to their deaths. Bowman saves Hemlock who at some point also dangles precariously on the side of the rock formation.
Clintwood insisted on performing all his stunts, something that the director of the International School of Mountaineering didn’t approve of. Dougal Haston knew too well the dangers of scaling the Eiger. Eastwood stuck to his guns and chose to go the realistic route as a cinematic device to add authenticity to the climbing sequences.
Rising 13,015 feet in elevation, the Eiger north face is considered the most treacherous climb. Eastwood decided to face the challenge on the two first days of filming, and sadly tragedy struck while filming a scene.
David Knowles, a British climber, lost his life when a huge rock broke free and smashed into him. Hoover, who was with him at the time, fractured his pelvic. Eastwood wanted to cancel the production but the other climbers convinced him to continue with The Eiger Sanction production as a tribute to Knowles.
Located at 3818 Grindelwald, Kleine Scheidegg provides a stunning view of the Eiger Sanction. The Wengernalp Railway, running from Lauterbrunnen to Grindelwald, can get you to the viewpoint.
The climbing party meets scene in The Eiger Sanction
Hotel Bellevue des Alpes, Kleine Scheidegg
Upon arriving in Switzerland ahead of the Eiger expedition, Hemlock and Bowman meet the other members of the climb. They get an opportunity to sass each other out at the Hotel Bellevue des Alpes.
Freytag, who comes off as a condescending person, tables his proposed route to the rest. His statement, "I consider it self-defeating to plan in terms of retreat,” reveals a lot about his general approach. Regardless, the climbing party agrees to follow his route and assign him as their guide up the mountain.
Located at Kleine Scheidegg, Kanton Bern, Hotel Bellevue des Alpes is a historic establishment dating back to 1840. The family-run business is the last of the 19th-century grand hotels, and its proximity to the Eiger provides guests with breathtaking views.
The Eiger Sanction location also became more popular after the production was filmed at the premises. It also provided a backdrop for other films like the North Face.
Opening scenes in The Eiger Sanction
Grossmünster and Limmat River, Zurich
The opening scenes introduce us to Hemlock, an art professor who moonlights as a mountaineer. We also learn that he formerly worked as an assassin for a secret government agency called C2.
Much like his involvement in the events that soon follow, he tells his students, “Some of you will continue in your education. Some of you will continue with your interest in art. Some of you will have interests other than that.”
After wrapping up the Eiger scenes, the production unit set up shop in Zurich. The crew filmed some of the opening scenes around the Grossmünster cathedral area, Münsterbrücke bridge, and the Limmat River.
The Grossmünster is one of Zurich’s iconic landmarks, and the Protestant cathedral rests close to the Limmat banks. According to legend, the religious premises rest on the grounds where the city’s patron saints, Regula and Felix, were buried.
Make your way to The Eiger Sanction filming location via bus 916, 165, 46, or 31. The #4 Light Rail will also get you to Grossmünster.
Hemlock survives an attempt on his life scene in The Eiger Sanction
Zion National Park, Utah
After completing his first sanction, Hemlock travels to Arizona where he retrains at a climbing school. Bowman runs the school, and alongside a woman called George, he whips him back to top climbing form.
Mellough, who knows every step Hemlock is making, hires George to drug him. Fortunately, Hemlock survives the attempt on his life. He retaliates by luring Mellough into the desert, and after shooting the bodyguard who accompanies his arch nemesis, he leaves Mellough at the mercy of the desert heat.
Knowing his grim fate lies ahead, Mellogh tries to plead for his life. “Jonathan, you're not going to leave me out here? Oh, Jonathan, for chr***akes, kill me but don't leave me here."
Once the production unit finished filming the Switzerland scenes, they returned to the United States to film at the Zion National Park. The team filmed at various locations around Utah including at the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and Zion Lodge.
Zion National Park is the perfect site to go backpacking, camping, hiking, and horseback riding. To get to The Eiger Sanction location, hop aboard one of the Zion Canyon Shuttles from the visitors center. The Shuttle stops at eight stops starting from the park’s southern border to the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
Brown seduces Hemlock scene in The Eiger Sanction
Café Bauschänzli, Zurich
On his return from Europe, Hemlock meets Brown, who unknown to him is a C2 courier. Introducing herself, Hemlock tells her that he can’t believe that she’s a stewardess. After an exchange about her name, she says “I mean people don't forget you when your name is Jemima.”
She seduces him and while he is sleeping, she makes away with the IRS exemption letter and cash he received after performing the first sanction. It ties his hands, and Hemlock who was reluctant about going through with the second killing doesn’t have a choice.
Café Bauschänzli is another location seen in the opening scenes, and it’s among The Eiger Sanction scenes filmed in Zurich. Described as Zurich’s miniature island, the cozy beer garden is nestled underneath large chestnut trees.
You’ll find the dining establishment where River Limmat and Lake Zurich converge. Guests can enjoy magnificent views of the surroundings, with the Alps visible on the horizon. It’s a great place to also indulge in the local cuisine and wash it down with refreshing beer.
Hemlock and Bowman make amends scene in The Eiger Sanction
Stage 28, Universal Studios
Another pivotal scene in the movie is when Bowman and Hemlock make amends after the expedition. Given that three out of the three potential targets all died on the mountain, Dragon believes that the person behind Wormwood’s death is no longer alive.
Bowman admitted to his involvement with Mellough explaining that he was indebted to him after he helped George get off drugs. Hemlock also learns that George is Bowman’s daughter. When he asks why she went along with the plan to take his life, Bowman explains that she did it for the “oldest reason in the world…money.”
The bulk of filming took place on location but the production still made use of Universal Studios. Formerly located at 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, Stage 28 no longer exists. Containing the set used for the 1925 production of Phantom of the Opera, the studio demolished the stage in 2014.
There are numerous other filming sets to traipse around Universal Studios in Los Angeles, and you can start your journey by boarding bus 240 or 222.
Diehard fans of the film who end up in Zurich have plenty of filming locations of The Eiger Sanction to explore. While at it, also check out some of the other locations around Zurich and Utah that hosted the production team.
In Zurich, the production team also filmed some of the opening scenes at the Kirchgasse, the Münsterbrücke bridge, Restaurant Karl der Grosse, and the Napfgasse.
In Utah, the cast and crew shot some scenes at the Narrows, the bridge running across the Virgin River, Checkerboard Mesa, and the Hanging Gardens. Additional scenes were shot at the Cave Route, Monument Valley, and the Rock Door mesa.
While filming in Utah, Eastwood and the production team stayed at the Groundlings Lodge. Other filming locations of The Eiger Sanction included Monterey, California, and Carmel-by-the-Sea.
For the wrap party, Eastwood hosted the team at the Hog’s Breath Inn, his former Carmel-based restaurant. Restaurateur Kaiser Morcus, who is also Eastwood’s good friend, now owns the dining establishment.