London – Lights, Camera, Action!
London boasts historic architecture, record-breaking skyscrapers, A-listers and Pinewood and Shepperton Studio, as well as the proposed Dagenham East Studio. No wonder it’s being touted as the new Tinseltown. When it comes to choosing where to film dramas, musicals and animated movies, it’s little surprise that out of all of the cities in the world, London gets top billing.
The director of Kung Fu Panda focuses on another hero – the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes – in Sherlock Gnomes (from 11 May). The animation is a sequel to Gnomeo & Juliet and follows the detective as he investigates the disappearance of garden gnomes. British favourites Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith and James McAvoy star alongside Johnny Depp (Sherlock), while Londoner Chiwetel Ejiofor plays his sidekick Watson. The team whizz through Chinatown and under Tower Bridge. To take a closer look at this majestic bridge, visit Tower Bridge Exhibition, which grants you access to a glass floor 42m above the River Thames, while its behind-the-scenes tour lets you delve deeper into the engine rooms. Then head west for dinner in Chinatown, which has four painted archways – the one on Wardour Street is the UK’s largest. Holmes will return in winter in the comical period drama Holmes and Watson (from 7 Dec), this time played by Will Ferrell. John C Reilly (Watson) will be supported by the Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald and Brit actors Ralph Fiennes and Hugh Laurie. While much of the film was shot in Shepperton Studios in Middlesex, you might recognise scenes shot in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Visitors can see the Painted Hall, which was completed in 1726 – current renovations allow you to climb the 18m-high scaffolding for a close-up of the ceiling. You can also attend a service at the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul, a Neoclassical masterpiece that hosts choral performances. An outdoor fair scene was filmed at Hampton Court Palace, the home of King Henry VIII. Visitors can see his crown and the chapel, vast kitchens and gardens.
Joe Wright, the director of Pride & Prejudice, Atonement and Anna Karenina, kicked off the year with the World War II drama, Darkest Hour, which received standing ovations in cinemas. Gary Oldman is almost unrecognisable in his Oscar-winning role as Sir Winston Churchill, while British actress Kristin Scott Thomas plays his wife Clementine. Shooting took place outside 10 Downing Street (Prime Minister Theresa May’s office and home), and in the Treasury, Foreign and Commonwealth Offices and House of Commons in the Houses of Parliament, where the events actually took place during World War II. In a scene where Churchill makes a royal visit, Somerset House is used as the entrance of Buckingham Palace. Visitors can join a free guided Old Palace tour (Tue), to learn about the Catholic queens who lived here: Anne of Denmark, Henrietta Maria and Catherine of Braganza.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS
Another fictional character is back on the big screen in Mary Poppins Returns (from 21 Dec), which is set in 1930s London. Emily Blunt plays the magical nanny Mary. Following a personal loss, Mary revisits her former charges Jane and Michael Banks, who now have children. Blunt performs alongside British stars Colin Firth, Julie Walters and Ben Whishaw, and Meryl Streep. As well as shooting in Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, scenes were filmed on Threadneedle Street in the City of London,and on Constitution Hill outside Buckingham Palace. Eagle-eyed viewers might also recognise the Victoria Monument, a 1924 memorial to Queen Victoria located on The Mall.
The Orthodox Jewish area of Golders Green in north London features heavily in Disobedience (from 24 Aug), which is based on the novel of the same name by Naomi Alderman. Produced by and starring Rachel Weisz, it sees Ronit embark on a lesbian affair with Esti, which causes shockwaves throughout the conservative community. The film features a home based in Hampstead Garden Suburb, as well as Maida Vale’s Lauderdale Road Synagogue – a Victorian red-brick building with a grand dome, which was built in 1896. While you’re in the area, you should explore the deer enclosure in Golders Hill Park and the pergola in Hampstead Heath. The heath might not be Hollywood, but it’s a popular celebrity hangout.
It’s not just London that has provided a big-screen backdrop. Here are a selection of films that will inspire you to go beyond the capital
Peter Rabbit, which stars James Corden as the rabbit, as well as Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley and Rose Byrne, is based on Beatrix Potter’s tales about a mischievous bunny. While it was mostly shot in Australia, it was also filmed in Ambleside town and Lake Windermere in the beautiful Lake District, where Potter lived. Visit the area to climb Loughrigg Fell, mountain bike in Grizedale Forest, see Wray Castle and cruise around the lake. Tight on time? Then go to the Peter Rabbit festival at Kew Gardens instead (to 15 Apr) to stroll along a themed trail.
READY PLAYER ONE
Director Steven Spielberg swapped Hollywood for Birmingham when shooting Ready Player One, a film about a games designer who challenges players to find his fortune in a virtual reality world after his death. Starring Mark Rylance, it was filmed in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, Floodgate Street, and nearby Marshall and Gravelly Hill interchange – a network of roads better known as Spaghetti Junction. See the city’s sights including the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, the Bullring Mall and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.
Phantom Thread stars Daniel Day-Lewis as a tailor in a toxic relationship. While the film is set in London’s couture world in the 1950s, scenes were filmed in Blackpool Tower Ballroom in Lancashire, Lythe village, Robin Hood’s Bay and the seaside town of Whitby in North Yorkshire. For a classic English day out, take the 199 steps from Whitby Abbey’s ruins to Whitby Harbour, where there’s a lighthouse, seafood restaurants and the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, which is dedicated to the local explorer. Visit Blackpool for afternoon tea in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, which was built in 1894. The 158m structure resembles the Eiffel Tower and has views of the beach and rollercoasters.
Following the success of last year’s Goodbye Christopher Robin, directed by Simon Curtis and starring Margot Robbie, Christopher Robin (from 17 Aug) is set to be just as popular. The animation stars Ewan McGregor, Chris O’Dowd and Toby Jones – a hat-trick of British talent. AA Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh tale sees the bear help an adult Christopher Robin rediscover his imagination in Hundred Acre Wood, which is based on Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. Walk or ride a horse through the forest, then play Poohsticks where it was meant to have been played – on the footbridge over the River Medway in Posingford Wood. The film was also shot at Dover Harbour Marine Station and Harbour Beach in Dover, Kent, and in Windsor Great Park.
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
When you watch Avengers: Infinity War (from 27 Apr), starring Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Pratt and Chris Hemsworth, you may be surprised to discover that evil Thanos wants to end the universe around Durham Cathedral in the north east; Edinburgh’s Waverley Train Station and Cockburn Street; and St Abb’s Head in Berwickshire. Follow in the Avengers’ footsteps and visit Durham Cathedral, then cross the river for Crook Hall & Gardens, before spending an afternoon at Beamish, an open-air museum that recreates life in the north east in the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s. Edinburgh, meanwhile, is best known for its castle and the Queen’s official Scottish residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie have lived here. While you’re there, soak up Old Town’s great atmosphere, browse the shops on Princes Street and climb up Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, for views
of the city.