Well, we’ve been going for 18 months and I thought – hey, why don’t we write about movies in the Midlands? Ha ha. In all seriousness, I’ve been intending for a long time to not only promote future talent (please see our Spotlight and Showcase pages – as well as archived feature slots on new filmmakers from the region in our Blog section) but also look back into what the region has contributed to the film industry in the past.
From all over the Midlands, there are filmmakers, actors and locations that have been featured in big successful movies and the region has both the gritty realism needed for a British kitchen-sink/urban drama and the grandiose buildings required for stately homes and castles for Hollywood visions of “olde” England. Let’s begin with Leicester…
Starting with my current hometown, Leicester has the Great Central Railway, now Britain’s only mainline steam railway which has been a pivotal location in a number of feature films. Firstly, in Buster (1988), Phil Collins’ Great Train Robbery took place at the station at Quorn in Loughborough as were important scenes from Shadowlands (1993) and The Hours (2002) as well.
Shadowlands was also directed by Lord Richard Attenborough, a huge acting and directing presence from Leicester. He and his brother David have made unbelievable contributions to the factual & fictional worlds of film-making from jungle and Arctic documentaries through to the Oscar-winning direction of Gandhi. For me and people my age, “Dickie” may be best remembered as Dr. John Hammond, the owner/founder of the terrifying out-of-control Jurassic Park in Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster. Either that or as Father Christmas in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street but we mustn’t forget his stunning acting turns in Brighton Rock and The Great Escape from the 60s.
Staying with the grandiose, Belvoir Castle (pronounced ‘beaver’), home of the Duke and Duchess of Rutland, has been seen in Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) and Ron Howard’s The Da Vinci Code. It doesn’t stop there as it can also be viewed as ‘Buckingham Palace’ in The Young Victoria AND in King Ralph whilst it kitchens were used in the 1999 remake of The Haunting too. One of Leicester’s other sons is Graham Chapman, one of the members of comedy troupe Monty Python who was born in Stoneygate and went on with his Python cohorts to write and film comedy classics such as The Holy Grail (1975) and controversial but hilarious Life of Brian (1979).
The home of Robin Hood but sadly none of it used in the filming of Russell Crowe’s or Kevin Costner’s recent takes on the tight-wearing hero. However, another tight-wearing hero (ok, the link is a little forced) is featured at Nottingham’s Woollaton Hall which was used for exterior shots of Wayne mansion in Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2011). Going much further back, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) starred Albert Finney and was shot at the Raleigh Bicycle factory in Radford and although we are told it’s the Old Bailey in Scandal (1989), the Shire Hall in High Pavement stood in for the infamous courts during certain scenes. For the 1960 adaptation of D H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, the filmmakers used the author’s real childhood home in Eastwood and the mine from the film was the Brinsley Colliery where his father worked.
The 2007 film Control about the short life and shocking death of Joy Division’s lead singer-songwriter Ian Curtis was partly filmed in Nottingham around some of the real places Curtis was known to frequent and was half-funded by director Anton Corbjin himself whilst East Midlands Media contributed £250k of European Development funding showing its support as well. Later on, the same agency supported Bunny and the Bull (2009), a comedy road-trip film that was shot at the King’s Meadow Campus of the University of Nottingham over 5 weeks.
BAFTA winner filmmaker Shane Meadows moved to Nottingham at 20 and started his own film festival to showcase his self-made short films based in the Midlands. Inspired by his own youth, Meadows was first nominated for a BAFTA for Dead Man’s Shoes (his sixth film) and the third to star Paddy Considine who he met at Burton College. He was presented the BAFTA for best British film in 2007 for This Is England (2006) by Sylvester Stallone and his Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (2002) starred Robert Carlyle and was set primarily in Nottingham. Finally, Nicholas Winding Refn filmed Bronson, a fictionalised biography of the notorious prisoner of the same name (with a brilliant Tom Hardy embodying the role) around the St. Ann’s, Sherwood, Worksop and Welbeck Abbey areas of Nottingham (shire) in the 2009 movie.
The county is famed for its elaborate stately homes, the first of which can be seen in Elizabeth (1997) where Haddon Hall, near Bakewell, was used as Hatfield House, Elizabeth I’s childhood home, whilst it also doubled as Thornfield Hall in Franco Zeffirelli’s Jane Eyre (1996). Historic Chatsworth House was turned into Mr Darcy’s home “Pemberley” in Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Haddon Hall (again!) was used for the Inn at Lambton, whilst its dining hall became Elizabeth’s bedroom.
One of Derby’s home-grown sons is Oscar winner Alan Bates, who starred in the 1969 film Women in Love which featured Kedleston Hall as the large house he and Eleanor Bron’s characters lived. Oliver Reed’s house in the same film was Elvaston Castle also in the county of Derby. Finally, Goodbye Mr Chips (1939) had the exterior shots of Brookfield School filmed at Repton School near Burton.
So much of The Da Vinci Code was filmed in Lincolnshire they may as well have called it The Da Linci Code as many scenes were filmed at Burghley House, Stamford in Lincolnshire. The same location was featured as the garage at Chateau Villette and as Saunière’s retreat in the flashbacks and whenever we see Westminster Abbey in the movie; the interiors were in fact shot in Lincoln Cathedral where Newton’s tomb was recreated. It’s also stood in for Westminster Abbey in The Young Victoria.
Previously meof the “outsider” from the bures as Judi Dench’s home in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice and the Merchant-Ivory film The Golden Bowl
The UK’s second largest city unfortunately has featured in a number of duff films so we’ll get those out of the way first. Knights And Emeralds (1986) about the rivalry between marching bands was filmed in central Birmingham as well as the more industrial areas in the Black Country. The spoof horror I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990) was filmed around city locations and the horrendous Sex Lives of the Potato Men (2004) featured the car park at Snow Hill station and Aston Expressway. It somehow gets worse though as Cliff Richard and Deborah Watling drove down New Street in the 1973 musical Take Me High. Good lord!
Improving from those duds, the Electric Cinema has a plaque outside to commemorate a scene from Bob Hoskins’ Felicia’s Journey (1999) whilst the quintessential “Northern” favourite Brassed Off from 1996 saw the band play in Birmingham Town Hall which stood in for the Royal Albert Hall. Finally, things improve with the John Cleese farce that is the 80s classic Clockwise where scenes were filmed at Edward’s School, Edgbaston, Menzies High School (in West Brom) and at the University of Birmingham.
Midlands Movies Mike
Other films filmed in or around the Midlands include: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), Magicians (2007), Mum & Dad (2008) & Goal 3 (2009).
For more info on the future and past of filmmaking in the Midlands please try these links:
http://www.em-media.org.uk/pages/home (sadly no longer with us but a useful website)