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From Pride and Prejudice to Harry Potter:  Britain Still Charms the Movie Makers

By Sarah Turner

July 2005

All over Britain, film stars seem to be popping up in the most unexpected places. Visitors heading to Lincoln Cathedral this summer might find Tom Hanks also in town. Hang around London instead, you may see quintessential New Yorker Woody Allen making his newest film. And Britain's hottest young film star, Keira Knightley, has put on a corset to play Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice in a new big screen adaptation of Jane Austen's classic romantic comedy. 

Much of the filming took place in the central England county of Derbyshire, with Chatsworth House, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, taking the role of Pemberley, home of dashing, misunderstood Mr Darcy. (Elizabeth Bennet might think that he's insufferably snobbish but we know he's just shy.)

Chatsworth is one of England’s great treasure houses, whose garden was landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown in the 1760s: both house and garden are open to the public.    

In the film, Elizabeth bumps into her future husband when she's looking around the garden, and the rest of us can follow in her footsteps. (Website: www.chatsworth-house.co.uk). If you want real star treatment, you can book into the award-winning Peacock Hotel at Rowsley, complete with four-poster beds. It's where Keira Knightley and her co-stars, including Dame Judi Dench, stayed while they were filming: www.thepeacockatrowsley.com.

Other locations used in the film include Haddon Hall and the dramatic rocks of Stanage Edge as well as palatial Burghley House near Stamford in Lincolnshire, built by Sir William Cecil, a favourite of the first Queen Elizabeth. www.burghley.co.uk 

The movie’s makers also ventured as far as the southern and south-eastern counties of Wiltshire, Berkshire and Kent in their quest for great locations. 

Alnwick in Northumberland, another of Britain's stately homes, is regularly used in the Harry Potter films. A medieval castle, it plays the part of Hogwarts School - the Quidditch matches are filmed on the castle's ramparts, while Gloucester Cathedral and Oxford University, some 290 miles south, provide the interior shots.

The Highlands of Scotland, especially the area around Glencoe, provide some of the most striking scenery in the Harry Potter films, though in the Muggle world Hogsmeade Station is in England - Goathland on the North Yorkshire Moors. Just like the film, there's even a steam railway, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway that visitors can ride: www.northyorkshiremoorsrailway.com

Is it the easy-going life Hollywood's finest enjoy in London, the heritage or the expertise of British film makers? Who knows, but there's no doubt that a bumper crop of films shot in Britain is on its way. Tom Hanks is spending the summer in Britain while he films the Da Vinci Code film version of Dan Brown’s novel. Lincoln Cathedral in the historic Eastern England city is under the spotlight, playing the part of London’s Westminster Abbey. The ornate Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh, which features in the book, will also star in the movie, following an eight-day shoot.

Soccer is a passion of the British, of course, and Goal, the first of a trilogy of soccer related films about a young Latino player who tries to join Newcastle United, is released this summer. Other locations include Chelsea's famous Stamford Bridge ground in London and rumour has it that Britain's iconic footballing star, David Beckham makes a cameo appearance. If a romantic comedy thriller is more your scene, catch The Truth About Love,  starring Jimi Mistry and Dougray Scott and filmed entirely in the West Country capital of Bristol. 

Going back a few decades, the Swinging Sixties, in all its psychedelic glory, is revisited in Stoned,  a film about the final days of the Rolling Stones drummer Brian Jones. Filming took place in the capital’s Battersea Park.

Recently, London has been famous as a setting for romantic comedies including Bridget Jones and her modern-day Mr Darcy. It's easy to follow in Renee Zellweger's footsteps. You want a Bridget Jones-style romantic weekend?   In the first Bridget Jones film, she and Hugh Grant's character, Daniel Cleaver, stayed in the Pennsylvania Suite at the Stoke Park Club, at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire, north-west of London. http://www.stokeparkclub.com. (Stoke Park also featured in the contemporary thriller Layer Cake,  starring Daniel Craig and Michael Gambon.) Bridget's flat is in Borough Market - an atmospheric Victorian part of London on the South Bank. The impressively unrehearsed fight between Cleaver and Darcy was also filmed here. In the sequel Bridget Jones the Edge of Reason, their fight took place in Kensington Gardens, by the Serpentine Gallery and the Italian Fountains. A map from FilmLondon, available on the Web, is good for location spotting: http://www.filmlondon.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=820

Love Actually  featured department store Selfridges, Heathrow Airport and the London Eye observation wheel. Notting Hill, the film starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, lives up to its name with multiple location spotting opportunities. The famous blue door may have been repainted but you can find the house used for the exterior shot on Westbourne Park Road. At the time of filming, it belonged to the film's writer, Richard Curtis. Inspiration for the book shop Grant's character owned came in nearby Blenheim Crescent, where you'll still find the Travel Bookshop. 

London is always a hive of filming activity. Last year Woody Allen used it as the backdrop for his soon-to-be-released Match Point, starring Scarlett Johansson. Locations include the 'Gherkin' building (officially called the Swiss Re), the Millennium Bridge and the Covent Garden Hotel (it was an easy commute for Johansson, as she lived in the hotel during filming) as well as Queens Tennis Club in West London. Allen enjoyed filming Match Point so much that he's coming back to London this summer to shoot his new - as yet untitled - film. 

A more futuristic version of Britain will be on show from November, when V for Vendetta, a film by the Wachowski Brothers, opens. Starring Natalie Portman, earlier this year, a three-night shoot took place in London, with tanks and extras dressed as commandos, outside the House of Commons. 

Meanwhile, Jude Law and Juliette Binoche are starring in Breaking and Entering, a new film from Anthony Minghella, director of the Talented Mr Ripley. It's a hard-edged drama about an architect whose life starts to fall apart when his offices are burgled. It's largely being filmed on location. So if you see a handsome man in a hard hat hanging around Kings Cross this summer, look twice to make sure that it isn't Jude Law in costume. Several people have been caught out.

For practical help in planning a trip around Britain, consult VisitBritain’s comprehensive website, www.visitbritain.com.

 


 

 


 
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