If you’re a Charles Dickens fan, strolling round Clerkenwell because it’s where the great man used to live and where he set much of Oliver Twist, you may start to get a feeling of deja vu if you’re also a British film fan. Some places will look familiar. But it won’t be Dickens film locations that’s you’ll be seeing. Clerkenwell is actually one of four areas of London that are particularly popular with film companies, but it’s modern day films that are filmed there. It’s popular because it’s bang in the heart of London yet it’s quiet, spacious streets are ideal for a film company to set up in. Walk just a few seconds north or south of the busy main Clerkenwell Road, and suddenly you’re all on your own, walking quiet, charming, affluent streets, which were used in About A Boy, A Fish Called Wanda, Love Actually and Sliding Doors. Would you believe it, Hugh Grant (well, his character in About a Boy) lived just yards from Dickens’ bank, which still stands today.
But what about Dickens films I hear you ask? Affluent Clerkenwell is no longer suitable for filming Dickens. In fact, few places are, so films set in Victorian times tend to be mostly studio work, with Dickens World in Chatham, also used. The latest Sherlock Holmes films were filmed there (as were bits of Pirates of the Caribbean).
But before Dickens World was built only a few years ago, the narrow cobbled streets, old warehouses, old market, riverside locations and cathedral just south of the river in the Southwark/Bermondsey area were used. The Elephant Man, Howard’s End and a French Lieutenant’s Woman were filmed there. The dark, spookiness of the place was also good for An American Werewolf In London, and Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. And John Cleese was dangled out of a riverside warehouse by the jewel thief in A Fish Called Wanda. And it’s still used for some films these days – Bridget Jones lived there.
For costume dramas set in rather grander worlds, Historic Greenwich’s beautiful Royal Naval College and Queen’s House, is a no-brainer. You won’t be surprised to hear that Sense & Sensibility and The Bounty were filmed there. The beautiful chapel in the Royal Naval College was also used for one of the Four Weddings, but wasn’t where Hugh Grant jilted Duckface.
That was in the fourth of London’s favourite film areas, Smithfields. The meat market itself, being a huge, empty space covered by unusual amazing architecture, was ideal for films such as Chaplin, Four Weddings and Lock Stock, and just a few yards away is London’s oldest church, ideal for use in End of The Affair, Shakespeare in Love and Four Weddings. A film crew were there when I walked past a few weeks ago too.
And anyone who has always assumed Harry Potter is all computer generation and studio work, should take a look at Leadenhall Market.