Our last chapter featured the London Underground as a backdrop to many films, but it is far from being the only asset in London to attract production companies and cameramen. Many prominent monuments and well-known buildings have had their fifteen minutes of fame on the cinema screen.
Agent 007 of Her Majesty’s Secret Service has often wandered around London during his missions. Trafalgar Square makes an appearance in 1967’s Casino Royale, but has lately been given more prominence in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). While the James Bond film had even featured an outside shot of Buckingham Palace, the producers of National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007) were not lucky enough to be allowed inside the palace. As a result, it is Lancaster House, within walking distance from Buckingham Palace itself, that stands in for the interior shots of the Queen’s official residence. Meanwhile, the outside shots for the same film, were allowed in front of the palace, with Nicolas Cage and the rest of the party outside the gates.
Image: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Many buildings of national importance present difficulties to filming companies. In Richard Curtis’s Love Actually (2003), the interior of the Prime Minister’s house at 10 Downing Street was in reality a set, and the exterior a replica created in the car park of Shepperton Studios. Some of the shots of Heathrow Airport in the same film were taken on site as was the scene in Selfridges, Oxford Street, which was filmed at night.
Image: Love Actually (2003)
The Ritz plays an important part in Notting Hill (1999), which is another Curtis creation. Besides being the temporary home of superstar Anna Scott, the hotel provides the background to Hugh Grant’s dejected walk after his character William finds out that Anna has a boyfriend.
Onto another film starring Grant, the multiple award-winning About a Boy (2002) sees main characters Will and Marcus in Regent’s Park, and later in the adjoining London Zoo, where they have a chat by the Penguin Pool. Another scene is shot on London Bridge, where character Will literally (and figuratively) walks against the rest of the people. No extras were needed here as the lead actor bumped into people crossing the bridge as they rushed to work at seven in the morning.
London is full of bridges and they’ve had their fair share of the spotlight. Lambeth Bridge provides the backdrop for the racing scene in Fast & Furious 6 (2013) whilst Tower Bridge appears in Mission: Impossible (1996) and Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001).
Image: Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
The Mummy Returns (2001) uses Tower Bridge for a chase, but chooses to shoot the exterior of University College on Gower Street, which is close to Euston Square Underground Station, to stand in for the British Museum. The Museum serves as the main venue for the magical happenings in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014). Whilst this was filmed on site, some of the exhibits portrayed in the film are not really on display at the museum.
We’ve taken a look at the landmarks that prove useful to filming. It must be said, however, that scenes are sometimes so powerful in themselves that it is they that have turned particular areas into attractions. But that is something to be discussed in our next instalment.
Image: The Mummy Returns (2001)