Episode 2: Not So Itsy-Bitsy Spider

Dominic Monaghan looks back on his journey to Laos in search of the venomous, massive-fanged creature known as the giant huntsman spider.

BBC America: What challenges did you face searching for the giant huntsman spider?
Dominic Monaghan: We had a long, awful drive to our cave entrance that took over an hour on rubble strewn roads. Getting our small crew of five men into the cave via the river so that we could even begin to LOOK for the spider was very hard. Getting any equipment wet would ruin the shoot. We paddled slowly and delicately.

What was the most exciting part or biggest surprise on your trip to Laos?
The interior of the cave in Laos was breathtaking. It went on for miles. The cave was pitch black with rapids, and harbored animals so alien and so shy. There were animals that I had never seen and that certainly have never seen me. Caves feel like a different planet. The cave we explored felt like a different galaxy.

‘Wild’ Director of Photography, Frank Vilaca, reflects on the dangers of shooting in underground rivers.

BBC America: What difficulties did you face filming in Laos?
Frank Vilaca: Filming in the longest cave river system in the world isn’t easy. The river system is Lao was huge – at points the 14-kilometer cavern was over 100 meters wide and just as high. The size presented some shooting challenges. You can’t light a big black hole in the middle of an under ground river. So we stuck to the sides of the cave to create some depth with some very powerful hand torches. Then there was the waterfall and rapids in the dark. Not a level piece of ground anywhere, and all surfaces were very wet and slippery. To protect the gear we used rain covers and splash bags, but that only worked if you didn’t tip over your kayak. Thankfully Paul Killback our producer was an experienced paddler and he kept my gear safe (except for several field monitors – he has a knack for destroying those.)

What was the highlight of your trip?
My favorite moments in Lao were the ongoing rocket festivals in all of the rural villages we passed through. At one point while shooting the festivities, one of the rockets misfired and exploded right over our heads, sending hundreds of bits of flaming debris all around us, all while a local band playing out of the back of a pickup truck with Marshall stacks was channeling the Doors. The locals consumed vast quantities of Beer Lao and moonshine while entertaining us with their rocketry skills… good times indeed.