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From Hollywood to Mallorca: how Amber Heard and Joseph Fiennes turned the island into a destination for the movies

From pioneers Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones to the recent arrival of the director Ruben Östlund, many actors and filmmakers choose to live on the Balearic island

From left to right, Michael Douglas, Amber Heard and Joseph Fiennes.
From left to right, Michael Douglas, Amber Heard and Joseph Fiennes.CORDON PRESS

Acquiring a home in Mallorca may be a faraway dream for most of us, but the ups and downs of the real estate market, like most things, don’t affect those with deep pockets. Mansions in private developments, and houses in the island’s villages, have become a magnet for business people, socialites and, more recently, world-famous actors. Michael Douglas was the pioneer. He landed on the island in the 1980s with his first wife Diandra Lucker, who had spent the summers of her childhood in Mallorca. The couple sought a calm place far from the stress of Hollywood. For €4 million, they purchased the monumental S’Etaca estate, a 100-hectare 19th-century complex whose seven buildings contain 11 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms.

Their love lasted 11 years more before they decided to divorce and share the estate between them, for six months each. They spent years switching summers on the island until deciding to put the property up for sale. Ultimately, the actor decided to stay on Mallorca. A few years ago, he bought his ex-wife’s share of the estate, which was up for sale for a time, and became the sole owner of the property, which has served as a set for numerous films and television series. Douglas and his wife, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, along with their two children, can be seen on the island each summer. They walk through the village of Valldemossa, visit local restaurants and spend time with friends like Ben Jakober and Yannick Vu, founders of the Sa Bassa Blanca museum.

Douglas also receives visits from other actors, which he posts on his Facebook page. The German actor Til Schweiger was one of his recent guests. The action film star and his family have been summer regulars on the island since 2006. In 2011, they purchased a house in the Establiments area of Mallorca, where they live almost year-round. The estate has 20,000 square meters, a terrace with panoramic views, a swimming pool and even a film studio.

The property was the subject of German tabloid headlines after ex-cyclist Jan Ulrich, Schweiger’s neighbor, was arrested in August 2018 for trespassing. Ulrich had jumped over the fence of Schweiger’s estate and threatened the actor and several others during a party. The former athlete was detained by the Spanish National Police and released with a restraining order that prohibited him from approaching his neighbor and former friend. The actor told a local journalist that he was not going to pursue charges against Ulrich. Schweiger has since continued to expand his businesses on the island and last year opened a luxury hotel in the coastal town of Portocolom.

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones with then-King Juan Carlos I in 2007.
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones with then-King Juan Carlos I in 2007.Dusko Despotovic (Corbis via Getty Images)

Some of the actors who live in Mallorca make more public appearances, participating in the island’s cultural life and the various film festivals held there. That is the case of British actor Joseph Fiennes, who starred in the first seasons of the series The Handmaid’s Tale. A few years ago, he attended a screening and subsequent discussion of the film Shakespeare in Love, in which he starred with Gwyneth Paltrow. The appearance was to support Cineciutat, a member-funded movie theater in the Balearic capital.

Alongside his wife, María Dolores Diéguez, he frequently attends events like September’s La Nit del Art, summer tennis tournaments and the Atlántida Film Festival, directed by Jaume Ripoll, co-founder of the streaming platform Filmin. Fiennes has lived on the island since 2009, when he bought a house in the mountains. The couple, who met in Switzerland, moved there after the birth of their first daughter. Their second child was born in their house in Mallorca. They now await the inauguration of their new mansion, under construction on a plot of land in the exclusive Son Vida development on the outskirts of Palma.

The actor Joseph Fiennes with his wife María Dolores Diéguez at the premiere of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ April 25, 2017.
The actor Joseph Fiennes with his wife María Dolores Diéguez at the premiere of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ April 25, 2017. Gregg DeGuire (WireImage)

The Spanish-German actor Daniel Brühl chose to move to a town in the north of the island with his wife and children a few years ago. The star of Rush lived for years in Berlin and Barcelona before settling in a house in Sóller amid the mountains. The actor said in an interview that he wanted his children to grow up somewhere quieter than Barcelona, in order to have a connection with nature. On his Instagram profile, with more than 820,000 followers, he has posted images of the walks he takes with his wife and their children in the mountains. Brühl spends the time he is not working on the island, and he also participates in local cultural life.

One of the most recent arrivals on the Mediterranean island is the director Ruben Östlund, a Swedish filmmaker whose movie The Triangle of Sadness is competing for three Oscars this year. The director, who won a Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2022, presented his film at the Teatro Principal in Palma as part of the Mallorca Evolution Film Festival. He moved to Mallorca to bring his young son closer to his maternal grandparents, who already resided on the island. Östlund and his wife bought a house in the municipality of Campos, where the director carried out a large part of the post-production for his current film. In fact, the movie’s test screenings were held in the town with tourists, hotel workers and residents of the area, according to the director, who was interested in getting the reaction of people outside the film world.

Östlund has stated his intention to shoot his next film on the island. If he does, he could hire actor Mads Mikkelsen, the Dane who starred in Another Round, which won the golden statuette for Best Foreign Film in 2021. With an apartment in the heart of the Santa Catalina neighborhood of Palma, it is common to see Mikkelsen dining in local restaurants accompanied by his family and his dog, Messi. Another Dane who has been linked to Mallorca since childhood is Pilou Asbæk, the star of the series Borgen. Twenty-two years ago, his parents Jacob and Patricia created the Andratx Cultural Center, where they offer residencies to artists.

The latest to join the list of actors on the island is Amber Heard, who last summer sought the serenity of Costitx, a municipality of 13,000 inhabitants located in the center of Mallorca. She settled in a rented house in the center of town with her partner, the photographer Bianca Butti, and her daughter, Oonagh Paig. She is often seen shopping and taking walks through the town square.

Actress Nicole Kidman, who is currently shooting the series Lioness with Zoe Saldaña, has also recently visited Mallorca. In a series of photographs published on her Instagram profile, the Australian made her feelings clear with a brief caption of “Loving Mallorca,” followed by the exclamation, “Beautiful Mallorca! Thank-you for having me, already planning to come back.”

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