OK, we’ve reached the last in our series of London film locations so this week we’re taking a quick look at three more…
• The Millennium Bridge. Initially nicknamed the “wobbly bridge” due to its propensity to move underfoot, this footbridge over the River Thames first opened in June, 2000, for only couple of days before it was closed for almost two years so its movement could be fixed and eventually reopened again in 2002. But despite its young age, the bridge has appeared not just in a Harry Potter film – 2009’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – where it gets destroyed but also in the break-out 2014 Marvel film, Guardians of the Galaxy in which it plays the role of a bridge in the city of Xandar (embedded in the rest if the CGI-created city). Among other London locations featured in that film is the modern Lloyd’s Building in Lime Street (again, it makes part of Xandar).
• The Regent’s Park. The 2010 film The King’s Speech features numerous London locations – among them is the Avenue Garden in the south-east corner of the park where speech therapist Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush) takes a stroll with Bertie, the future King George VI (played by Colin Firth), which turns a little uncomfortable. Other locations include 33 Portland Place (which plays the role of the Duke and Duchess’ Piccadilly home as well as that of the interior of Logue’s consulting rooms in the famous Harley Street), and the Draper’s Hall in the City, the interior of which plays the role of St James’s Palace.
• The Temple Church. This famous – and beautiful – City of London church made its starring performance in the Tom Hanks movie of 2006, The Da Vinci Code. The church enters the movie when symbology professor Robert Langton (played by Hanks) and cryptologist Sophie Neveu (played by Audrey Tautou) come here in search for a knight’s tomb. Other London locations featured in the film (alongside those in France and Scotland), include Westminster Abbey (although the interiors were actually shot at Lincoln Cathedral). For more on the history of the church, see our earlier post here or on the tomb effigies, see our post here.
Our next special series kicks of next Wednesday.
April 27, 2016
There’s an ancient church in London which has taken on the role of various other cathedrals and churches in many recent historic films, most notably in the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love (a fitting reference this week, given the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death last weekend).
But the church – location of the scene in the film in which Shakespeare’s begs forgiveness after the death of Kit Marlowe – has also been seen in everything from the 1991 Kevin Costner-vehicle, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (where it represented the interior of Nottingham Cathedral) to Guy Ritchie’s 2009 film Sherlock Holmes (where it represented St Paul’s Cathedral, location of a ritual sacrifice being conducted by the evil Lord Blackwood).
It has also appeared in the 1996 Victorian-era drama Jude, 2006’s Amazing Grace – the story of William Wilberforce’s effort to combat the slave trade, 2007’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age (where it hosts the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots), 2008’s The Other Boleyn Girl, and the 2012 fantasy epic, Snow White and the Huntsman.
Oh, and the church? The priory church of St Bartholomew The Great (St Bart’s) located in West Smithfield, which has a history dating back 900 years (for more on the history of the church, see our earlier post here).
But the church hasn’t just been seen in films of the historic genre – it’s also played roles in more contemporary movies as well, from 1994’s Four Weddings and Funeral (St Julian’s where a wedding doesn’t take place) to 1999’s The End of the Affair and, more recently, the 2014 film Muppets: Most Wanted.
It’s doubtful there’s a church interior in London that’s been in so many movies in recent times. For more on the church itself, see www.greatstbarts.com.
In the movie, PR flack Helen (played by Paltrow) is fired from her job and heads to Embankment Station where her one life suddenly becomes two possibilities.
Without giving too much away (and yes, we know it dates to 1998, but still), in one version she makes her way through the “sliding doors” an catches the train and her life seems to fall into place; in the other she fails to and her life goes somewhat belly-up. It’s a tale of two futures; the life that might have been – and it all hinges on that Tube ride.
As mentioned above, Sliding Doors – which also features numerous other London locations and co-stars John Hannah – is far from the only film in which the Tube features – in fact, last year it was reported that the London Underground Film Office handles more than 200 requests a month.
While the first film featuring the Tube apparently dates as far back as 1928 (Anthony Asquith’s silent film Underground), other more recent films which have featured the London Underground include everything from Skyfall to The Bourne Ultimatum, and Thor: The Dark World (not forgetting the previously mentioned film V for Vendetta).
They haven’t always been the real thing – the chase scene featuring the Tube in 2012’s Skyfall, for example, was apparently filmed on a set at Pinewood Studios (another Bond film, Die Another Day, even features an imaginary station – Vauxhall Cross – which is used by MI6 as a secret base.)
And when movies are shot featuring the real Underground, the now closed – or ‘ghost’ – station of Aldwych (formerly on a spur branch of the Piccadilly Line) is a popular choice: as well as Atonement and V for Vendetta, it was used in the TV series’ such as Mr Selfridge and Sherlock.
For more on London film locations, see the London Film Location Guide.
The London Eye features in the background of numerous recent films – everything from 2002’s 28 Days Later to 2004’s Thunderbirds and 2007’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
But the structure, which was built in 1999 and is currently known formally as the Coca-Cola London Eye, has a bigger role in another 2007 film – Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in which the film’s heroes must prevent it toppling into the Thames and a gaping hole that opens up in the river.
Thankfully, in the 2007 film, The Thing (played by Michael Chiklis), Mr Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) and the Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) manage to do so, using their unique powers to save all the people being thrown around inside the Eye’s many pods.
Of course, as an iconic symbol of the city today, the London Eye has also been recreated in several animated films – from Flushed Away to Cars – and is even recreated, tongue-in-cheek, in wood for A Knight’s Tale.
There’s also quite a few films and TV shows which have featured scenes filmed inside the Eye’s pods, including Wimbledon in which one of them plays host to a punch-up.
The area of South Bank around where the Eye is located is a popular spot for films. The OXO Brasserie in the OXO Tower, for example, features in Thor: The Dark World, Millennium Bridge, linking South Bank to St Paul’s Cathedral, can be seen as part of the (imaginary) city on Xander in the film Guardians of the Galaxy and Jubilee Gardens, next to the Eye, was used as a landing pad in Thunderbirds for the T2.
It’s the quintessential London film – the story of a bookshop owner, William Thacker (played by Hugh Grant), whose life takes a romantic turn when a famous American actress Anna Scott (played by Julia Roberts) comes into his shop. And, as the name suggests, it’s set in the west London district known as Notting Hill.
The centrepiece of the 1999 film, which was directed by Richard Curtis, is the Portobello Road Market (pictured above, see more on the history of the market here) but the film also depicts other aspects of the area.
These include the Coronet Cinema, and, of course, the now famous blue door in Westbourne Park Road which represents the entry to Thacker’s flat (it was apparently actually Curtis’ home).
There’s plenty of other London sites in Notting Hill as well – The Ritz hotel in Piccadilly where Anna Scott stays, the Savoy Hotel where a press conference is held and the historic Hampstead Heath home featured (or rather not) in last week’s film Belle, Kenwood House – this time as a film set in a movie Anna is making.
Notting Hill, meanwhile, has long been a popular site for films – everything from The Italian Job (the Michael Caine version) through to another recent Richard Curtis film About Time (2013) has been filmed here.
This is the case of a movie stand-in. While Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath in north London (pictured above) was the real life home of late 18th century figure Dido Elizabeth Belle, the subject of the 2014 Amma Asante-directed film Belle – the movie wasn’t actually shot there.
Thanks to the fact that parts of Kenwood House – in particular the famed Robert Adam interiors – were undergoing restoration at the time, the scenes representing the home’s interiors were instead shot at three other London properties – Chiswick House, Syon Park and Osterley Park, all located in London’s west (West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire, meanwhile, was used for the exterior).
While some other scenes were also filmed in London – Bedford Square represented Bloomsbury Square where the London home of Lord Mansfield was located, for example, other locations were also used to represent London – scenes depicting Kentish Town, Vauxhall Gardens and the bank of the River Thames were all actually shot on the Isle of Man, for example.
When the real life Belle – the illegitimate mixed race daughter of an English naval captain who was raised by her great-uncle William Murray, Lord Mansfield (she was played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the film; Lord Mansfield by Tom Wilkinson) – is believed to have lived at Kenwood, it was the weekend retreat of Lord Mansfield, then Lord Chief Justice of England (for more on her life, see our previous post here).
Interestingly, the property was also once home to a 1779 painting (previously attributed to Johann Zoffany but now said to be “unsigned”) which depicts Belle and which was apparently the inspiration for the movie. While a copy of the painting still hands at Kenwood, the original now lives at Scone Palace in Scotland.
For more on Belle’s story, see Paula Byrne’s Belle: The True Story of Dido Belle.
February 24, 2016
When the makers of the 2010 Jack Black movie Gulliver’s Travels were looking for suitably grand buildings to represent the Lilliputian capital, they turned to the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the World Heritage-listed site made a grand backdrop for the film in which a supersized Black plays Gulliver, the hero of Jonathan Swift’s book (incidentally Blenheim Palace near Oxford also makes an appearance in the film).
It’s not the first time, of course, that the location has featured in recent films – in fact, such has been its popularity that Empire asked last year whether it was the most popular film location in the world.
Other films in which the Old Royal Naval College appears have included The Dark Knight Rises (where it features in the epilogue), Les Miserables (where the buildings represent a part of a Paris featuring a gigantic wooden elephant which is home to the street urchin Gavroche), and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (where the spectacular Painted Hall, designed by Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, represents the King’s palace).
It has also appeared in both of the recent Sherlock Holmes films as well as a host of others – everything from The Mummy Returns to The Madness of King George and Charlotte Gray.
February 17, 2016
The site of the climatic showdown in V for Vendetta between the silent hoards of masked protestors and the military, Parliament Square is featured in some dramatic aerial shots before, moments after midnight in the early hours of 5th November, the Houses of Parliament explode to the sprightly sounds of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
Of course, it’s far from the only London location to feature in the 2006 film which is largely set in the city – among other locations are Trafalgar Square where the protestors gather before marching down Whitehall, and the Old Bailey which explodes in the first scene as well as the former Underground station of Aldwych – located on a former spur line of Piccadilly Line which closed to the public in 1994.
Meanwhile, the Houses of Parliament – also known as the Palace of Westminster (for more on its history, head here) – and the Clock Tower (see our Treasures of London article for more here) have made innumerable appearances on the big screen, including in several Bond films including Thunderbolt (1965), 28 Days Later (2002), and, more recently, in Suffragette (2015).
February 10, 2016
Of course, James Bond has a long-standing relationship with London and there’s a long list of locations that have featured in the many Bond films over the years. But today we’re looking at just one – the Thames-side HQ of spy agency MI6.
The actual London home of the organisation (also known as the Secret Intelligence Service), the not-so-secret building – which is also called the Vauxhall Cross building – is located on Albert Embankment in Vauxhall, sitting alongside Vauxhall Bridge.
It has made numerous appearances in the past few James Bond films – from its first appearance in Golden Eye to its being attacked in The World Is Not Enough, blown up in Skyfall and the featuring of its ruinous remains in the latest film, Spectre.
The subject of some criticism when it was unveiled (and much loved by others), the fortress-like building was designed by architect Terry Farrell. It was built in the early 1990s and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994. It suffered – and survived – a real-life rocket attack in 2000.
Other locations to have featured in recent Bond films in London, meanwhile, include Somerset House (passed off as St Petersburg in Golden Eye), the National Gallery (Bond, played by Daniel Craig, first encounters the new Q, played by Ben Wishaw, in Room 34 in Skyfall), and the rooftops of Whitehall (also Skyfall). And that’s just for starters.
February 3, 2016
The scene in which Mary Poppins (played by Julie Andrews) sings to the two Banks children about the old woman who feeds the birds outside St Paul’s Cathedral as they go to bed remains one of the most poignant of the iconic Disney film.
Of course, it wasn’t actually filmed at the cathedral – rather it was filmed on a set at Walt Disney’s studios in Burbank, Los Angeles – but the scene remains powerful for its imagery and music nonetheless.
The scene itself shows Mary holding up a snow globe with St Paul’s Cathedral inside as she sings. The audience is taken into the globe where we see the “little old bird woman” (the last role ever played by Oscar winning actress Jane Darwell) feeding the birds on steps outside the cathedral’s west front.
The rather melancholy song, written by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman, talks about how the little old bird woman came to the steps of St Paul’s every day and there called for people to buy her bags of crumbs (priced at tuppence a bag) to feed the pigeons (a practice now frowned upon!).
“All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares,
Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling,
Each time someone shows that he cares.”
In the film, the children actually meet the old bird woman the following day but their father discourages them from feeding the birds (although the book recounts things a little differently).
The scene was apparently one of few Mary Poppins author PL Travers – whose first Mary Poppins book was published in 1934 – didn’t object to when making the film (the story of the somewhat acrimonious relationship between Travers and the film-makers is shown in the recent film Saving Mr Banks), which was released on 27th August, 1964. It is also said to have been Walt Disney’s favourite song from the movie.
Of course, St Paul’s is only one of a number of London locations mentioned in the live action/animated film – the Bank of England is another (and to see more about the fictional home of the Banks family, see our earlier post here).
Of course, Mary Poppins is just one of numerous films in which St Paul’s is featured – among the other films which depict the building or its interior include 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia, 1994’s The Madness of King George, 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and 2009’s Sherlock Holmes.