London, other European locations set the scene for popular films
Film lovers in Britain have reason to rejoice. Not only can they visit the locations where many of their favorite films were shot, they might even catch a glimpse of the stars themselves.
“Harry Potter” fans can visit Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, a stately home regularly used in the films. The medieval edifice plays the part of Hogwarts School, and the Quidditch matches are filmed on the castle’s ramparts.
Gloucester Cathedral and Oxford University were used for interior shots, and the Scottish Highlands, particularly the area around Glencoe, were used for scenery. And Hogsmeade Station is real — it is actually Goathland, on the North Yorkshire Moors. You can even catch a steam train ride there.
Speaking of trains, Potter fans know that his pilgrimage to Hogwarts began in London’s King’s Cross Station. Inside, you can see the pedestrian bridge that Harry and his giant friend Hagrid cross in “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” stretching over the tracks in the main station. Platform 9¾, from which the magical train departs, is nowhere to be seen. The magical entrance to Platform 9¾ was actually filmed at Platform 4, and clueless pilgrims might be disorientated by a sign attached to the exterior wall of the annex housing tracks 9, 10, and 11, marking that spot as the entrance to Platform 9¾.
It’s a simpler task to retrace the footsteps of Bridget Jones of diary-writing fame. In the first film, she and Hugh Grant’s character, Daniel Cleaver, stayed in the Pennsylvania Suite at the Stoke Park Club at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire, northwest of London. Bridget’s flat is in Borough Market, on London’s South Bank.
“In Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” the fight scene between beaus past and present was shot in Kensington Gardens, near the Serpentine Gallery and Italian Fountains.
“Love Actually,” which came out in 2003, featured many eminently recognizable London landmarks including Selfridges department store, Heathrow Airport and the London Eye observation wheel.
“Closer” offered views of The National Portrait Gallery, the London Aquarium, Whiteleys Shopping Centre and Thomas More Square.
And fans of “Notting Hill” can head to the area of that name to see the film sites. The bookstore owned by the character portrayed by Hugh Grant is based on the real-life Travel Bookshop in Blenheim Crescent.
Filming of “The Da Vinci Code” with Tom Hanks began June 29 in Lincoln, in the eastern part of the country. Lincoln Cathedral is standing in for Westminster Abbey, while additional shooting will take place at Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel, outside of Edinburgh.
In London, visitors have a shot at running into Woody Allen far from his beloved Manhattan this summer. He used the city 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 (Johansson lived in the hotel during filming) as well as Queens Tennis Club in West London.
In the neighborhood a fine-looking man in a hard hat. That would be Jude Law, in the process of filming the upcoming “Breaking and Entering.”
A more futuristic version of Britain will be on show starting in November, when “V for Vendetta” opens, a film by the Wachowski Brothers starring Natalie Portman. Earlier this year, the movie’s crew spent three nights shooting in London, with tanks and extras dressed as commandos outside the House of Commons.
For more information on film sites in London, see FilmLondon’s online map.
Britain is not the only European country starring in films. Last year’s “Ocean’s Twelve” was filmed in a variety of locations throughout Europe. What is portrayed as Amsterdam’s train station is really that of the town of Haarlem, some 13 miles down the road. Bonafide Amsterdam locations in the film include the Pulitzer Hotel and the houses along its canal, and the Dampkring, a famous coffee bar.
Italy’s Lake Como is the site of The Night Fox’s mansion, and the city overlooking the lake is Bellagio. Other parts were filmed in Scopello, Castellammare del Golfo, near the Sicilian city of Trapani. There are also glimpses of places in Rome and Paris: Rent the DVD to see how many you’ve visited.
Several scenes from last year’s “Van Helsing” were filmed in the Czech Republic. The medieval Transylvanian village was re-created in Kunratice, just outside of Prague, while the city of Tabor’s 15th-century fortress is the beleaguered Valerious family’s headquarters.
In Prague itself, the Kampa area serves as a Budapest street and the Olsany Cemetery was used for the the graveyard. St. Nicholas Church hosted Count Dracula’s over-the-top masquerade ball.
Other countries being given serious consideration as production venues by Western producers include Lithuania, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. So next time you’re slurping goulash at a stand in Budapest, be on the lookout for familiar faces in the crowd.
Stars and Stripes’ Karen Bradbury contributed to this report.