In the golden age of movies, the UK was a key location. But what if some of the Hollywood classics were remade here today? Anna Smith has a vision…
Once upon a time, Britain was the setting for many a hit movie – 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan… and of course the classic Carry On Girls, filmed in front of the Best Western Brighton Hotel. These days, seems like you’re more likely the find the stars cavorting in front of a blue screen in a Hollywood studio than gracing our fair shores. We’re campaigning to bring Britain back to the big screen by remaking classic movies on home soil. From Bond in Blackpool to Casablanca in Cambridge, we’ve scoured the land for the finest fantasy film sets. Location experts take note…
Casablanca – Cambridgeshire
It may have looked exotic but the triple Oscar-winning, African-set Casablanca was shot almost entirely in Los Angeles on Warners’ Burbank lot, using props and re-hashed sets from other films including The Desert Song and Now Voyager.
We reckon Britain can do better than that. We propose that fateful, final airfield scene be shot in Duxford Airfield, Cambridgeshire, home to the world-famous Imperial War Museum. There’s a working WWII control tower and an active airfield – where better for Rick to make his tragi-romantic gesture? Of course, there’s no shortage of attractive vintage planes in Europe’s premier aviation museum – perfect for selflessly packing off your lover and her husband.
Meanwhile, Sam could tinkle the ivories at the piano bar in the Pizza Express in Jesus Lane, Cambridge – its set in the former library of the university Pitt Club and retains an exclusive air that should suit those thirsty gents. Cambridge Railway Station could double for the Gare de Lyon as easily as a Warner Studio Lot and it’s an eco-friendly way for cast and crew to travel, too. All together now: “We’ll always have Cambridge.”
Lord of the Rings – Forest of Dean
Sure, New Zealand provides a stunning backdrop for the Lord of the Rings movies but it’s said that J. R. Tolkien may have been visualising our very own Forest of Dean when penning the fantasy saga. He worked at Lydney Park in 1929 during an archaelogical excavation on a site known as “Dwarf’s Hill”, where crumbling ruins were once mistaken for the homes of little people.
So let’s take this baby back to its roots and deep into the Forest of Dean. Consider this quote from Tolkein’s Part II: The Two Towers: “He led the way in under the huge branches of the trees. Old beyond guessing, they seemed. Great trailing beards of lichen hung from them, blowing and swaying in the breeze.” Now tell us if that doesn’t sound just like the Forest Of Dean’s Puzzlewood, which recently featured in Dr Who doubling for the forests of Byzantium. Those twisted branches could easily create the magical Fangorn Forest.
When they’re not tramping through the forest, the hobbits can cruise down the River Wye, explore the ancient trails by horseback or search for the precious Ring in the dramatic caves. Plenty of space for battle scenes, too.
Logan’s Run – Cornwall
Futuristic sci-fi thriller Logan’s Run saw a scantily-clad Jenny Agutter and a chiselled Michael York attempting to escape a geodesic dome before they turned 30 – the age at which inhabitants were sent off to the big silver dome in the sky. Many have tried to remake this classic, originally filmed in The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Rumour has it that the latest script, penned by The Beach scribe Alex Garland, will go into production soon.
If they know what’s good for them, the production team will head straight for the Eden Project in Cornwall, the huge eco-attraction housed in glistening geodesic domes. They’ll have to book ahead, mind you: the project plays host to gigs and art exhibitions galore along with thousands of visitors exploring the world’s largest rainforest in captivity. There’s a land train that runs on biofuel, which could save our fleeing hero and heroine some legwork. And once they’ve escaped, they’d be welcomed by Cornwall’s rugged countryside. How about stunning coastal Tintagel for the scene with the old man wandering around the ruins? You’d just have to borrow 50 cats from the locals. Job done.
Dr No – Blackpool
James Bond is a quintessentially English hero, but he always seems to be jetting off abroad when there are perfectly lovely places on home soil. While a couple of Dr No scenes were filmed in London – at a Mayfair Club and Hampton House – those aren’t the scenes most people remember, for some reason. That beach scene was filmed in Jamaica – but surely Ursula Andress would have been just as comfortable braving a bikini on Blackpool Beach?
With acres of sand and sea, there’s plenty of room for rolling around in the waves. And on the sidelines, there’s more than enough glitz and glamour for an old-school Bond movie. Can’t you just see 007 dashing down the promenade in his white Dj, popping into the casino for a quick martini before a high-speed rollercoaster chase at Pleasure Beach, Britain’s Biggest Tourist Attraction? There’s even a Gold Mine theme ride that could double as the evil Dr No’s bauxite mine, where Bond and Honey are imprisoned before they hop on a boat and escape into the deep blue sea. Kiss-me-quick hats optional.
King Kong – City of London
Never mind the 2005 remake: the real King Kong came roaring onto the big screen in 1933’s classic monster movie. As we all know, its iconic scene was set at the Empire State Building on Fifth Avenue, New York. But nearly 80 years on, England can boast its fair share of high-rise wonders in the glistening City Of London.
We can just picture the great hairy ape scaling the walls of the award-winning Gherkin building, terrorising unsuspecting city boys as they go about their days.
Or perhaps he’d aim for the top and go for the 50-storey One Canada Square, the tallest completed structure in the UK and the 15th tallest in Europe. To get the best views of London, Kong might want to wait for 2012 when the famous Shard will be completed and, at more than 1000 feet, will tower over One Canada Square.
Meanwhile the fashionable Barbican centre could replace the New York theatre in which Kong is exhibited. The largest performing arts centre in Europe, it’s big enough to hold his bulky form and all the crowds flocking to marvel at his might. We can almost hear him roaring now…
By Anna Smith, Do Not Disturb (In-hotel Magazine)