Filming in Croatia: Kelly’s Heroes in 1969 AND the 2017 Airsoft Reenactment

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Another gem to add to the treasury of Croatian filming locations: meet Vižinada, an Istrian town where Clint Eastwood filmed the famous war comedy

We have recently come out with a feature on Lekenik, a small Croatian village near Zagreb that hosted the Hollywood classic Fiddler on the Roof. The amazing story of the village that retained its authentic appearance for more than 40 years reminded us that we tend to overlook the long history of filming in Croatia and focus on recent hits instead, excitedly debating about Game of Thrones or Star Wars or Mamma Mia.

There’s nothing bad about that, to be honest, and any big international hit getting filmed on Croatian soil comes with welcome promotion of our country on the global market… However, do you know what’s even more exciting to talk about?

Clint Eastwood.

Turns out, the Hollywood legend spent quite a lot of time filming in Croatia. Sure, Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan paying a visit to Vis island more than qualify as an attractive story, but come on – Clint Eastwood!

This is how the story goes: two years before Lekenik was turned into a Russian shtetl, another village in Croatia played a role in an entirely different script. In 1969, Vižinada in Istria welcomed a star-studded cast headed by Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connor, Donald Sutherland and Harry Dean Stanton, there to film the war comedy Kelly’s Heroes.

The film’s plot centres around a group of American soldiers stationed in the French village of Clermont close to the end of World War II. Private Kelly (played by Eastwood), upon finding out the German forces stored massive quantities of gold in a bank not far from the front line, assembles his closest brothers in arms in a mission to go after the gold. Along the way, trying to go through with their plan, they end up eliminating enemy infantry and scoring a win for the US forces.

Well, if you happened to be passing through Vižinada a week ago, you would’ve thought the picturesque Istrian village was either undergoing a massive siege or hosting another film production. Dozens of men clad in military uniforms descended upon the charming historic centre, fully armed and, well – fully nerve-wrecking at first glance. See for yourself:


No real bullets were fired, though. What was going on? On Saturday, November 18, the Airsoft Club Mutila – Medulin staged a themed airsoft meet-up, titled ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ as a nod to Vižinada’s role in cinematic history. The tournament was carried out entirely by following the original script, scene after scene taking place at locations that made an appearance in the film.


The reenactment saw around 90 players from Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. The participants wore replicas of American and German military uniforms from WWII and carried equally ‘authentic’ equipment – all the airsoft guns were modeled after mid-20th century weapons. In case you were wondering, airsoft is a team sport similar to paintball, but instead of little paint-packed pellets, players use plastic ammo, hence the need for padded gear.


Airsoft usually has a certain guerrilla character to it, getting played in unpopulated areas such as forests and other locations where the natural terrain provides enough cover required for the game to be carried out properly. However, in recent years, various clubs have been organising tournaments in urban areas, staging themed street fights such as the latest one played in Vižinada.


I imagine the local population, especially the elders, might have found it a bit unnerving to see their streets sprinkled with SS insignia, considering what the region went through in those tumultuous times. But as far as reenactments go, it’s a rare occurrence to see such a level of dedication to historical accuracy. You would think the local tourist board would be the one to introduce a themed tour and use this God-given advantage to promote their destination; instead, it had to be an airsoft club doing the good work.


In the end, I guess what matters is that people get to know about this charming town and decide to add it to their itinerary next time. After all, not only it boasts an impressive history, but Clint Eastwood once walked those streets. Too bad he couldn’t make a guest appearance at the anniversary party. 


All photos courtesy of Vižinada Municipality, taken by Daniel Klemm. 

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