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Location, location, location: Greenwich in film

Making a regular appearance on the silver screen, Greenwich has played host to many box-office hits

With works such as Philip Noyce's 1992 action-thriller 'Patriot Games' and Gillian Armstrong's 2001 romantic wartime drama 'Charlotte Gray' under its belt, Greenwich was thrust into the spotlight thanks to its elegant backdrops, charming buildings and rich maritime history. In the past couple of years, Greenwich (and in particular the Old Royal Naval College) has become one of the most in demand locations for contemporary film.

 

Greenwich in film cannot be discussed without mentioning the famous Christopher Wren designed ORNC. A World Heritage Site, the stunning grounds have been the location of an exhaustive list of films. Most recently, Tom Hooper's 'Les Misérables' (2012) featured beautiful shots of the college, which housed a gargantuan elephant set piece and barricades. The opening scene to 2011's 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' was also filmed in the grounds of the ORNC, with Johnny Depp and crew using the area for over a month. The King William Undercroft restaurant at the ORNC was also used for a funeral scene in 'Skyfall' (2012), with Judi Dench seen walking amongst Union Jack-draped coffins.

 

The likes of Angelina Jolie and Rowan Atkinson have also walked the halls of the ORNC, in 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider' (2001) and the hilarious 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' (1994) respectively, highlighting the versatile nature of the site that could be adapted to suit even the most action-packed of scripts. Filmakers have also used the stunning Painted Hall as a location: Depp was dragged through the hall by guards, Jolie faced villain Manfred Powell in an epic showdown, and Michael Winner eventually chose to shoot scenes of 'The Wicked Lady' (1983) here.

 

What makes the Old Royal Naval College such an iconic place to shoot is its ability to accomodate both historic and modern film concepts, in addition to having the capacity to act as a double, as shown in Noyce's 'Patriot Games' that employed the site as both Buckingham Palace and Harrison Ford's academic lecture room; the colonnades also masqueraded as a Florence café for Michael Caine's dream sequence in 'The Dark Knight Rises' (2012), with Christian Bale and Caine on site; and the first Sherlock Holmes film (2009) with Robert Downey Jr. uses the ORNC as a stand-in for Parliament - as does 'The Iron Lady' (2011) with Meryl Streep. It is also featured as a backdrop for a palace in The King's Speech, featuring Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter (2010).

 

Other notable film sites in Greenwich include Park Row near Greenwich Palace, the restored Queen's House and Greenwich Park, as well as spots such as the Royal Standard pub and Pickwick pub that saw Daniel Craig undertake the role of reformed thief George Dyer in the acclaimed drama, 'Love is the Devil' (1998). One of the most exhilarating Greenwich cameos was the famous opening to 'The World is Not Enough' (1999), which saw Pierce Brosnan fall from a hot-air balloon onto the roof of the Millennium Dome after his character, James Bond, raced a villain along the Thames.

 

That's not where the film connections to Greenwich end. Academy Award winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis spent much of his childhood residing in Greenwich, before being given the opportunity to star in his first film as an extra.

 

With Greenwich Picturehouse showing the latest blockbusters as well as thought provoking and independent art house films, Greenwich is a perfect place to experience the art of cinema; but it also remains one of London's most frequently used locations, directors falling for its naval charm, riverside setting and grand buildings evocative of another time.

 

Another recent film using Greenwich as a location is Thor: The Dark World (2011) - here's the trailer which features some interesting shots of the ORNC:

 

 

 

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