It’s easy to believe that movies are shot where they’re set, but that’s not always the case
Guest post by Zoe Price
With its unmistakable landmarks and attractions, drawing in a massive number of tourists each year, it is easy to see why the UK’s capital is so much of a popular destination in movies and television. However, did you know that northern cities are often substituted in with similar architecture to provide an authentic feel to the untrained eye?
For production companies, Liverpool can often provide a cheaper, more efficient alternative to London, with shoots not having to interrupt the congested flow of everyday life, and so it is a popular choice for motion pictures attempting to replicate the authenticity of the capital.
Peaky Blinders, the popular BBC crime drama set in 20th century Birmingham, is an excellent example of Liverpool as a functional shooting location. Chosen as the main destination due to its preserved Victorian industrial architecture, there are different tours available that will show you the iconic settings of the show.
But which films don’t display London entirely? Here are a few examples of films that are set in London, but sometimes discretely shot in Liverpool.
A British franchise heavily associated with London, with many of the films’ scenes taking place in-and-around the city, and the tourist-drawing studio door close by in Watford, the Harry Potter series does mostly stay true to the capital when filming, with scenes in places like King’s Cross Station, London Zoo and on Lambeth Bridge to name a few.
With one scene, however, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, a London chase where the characters are escaping monsters on broomsticks, the production team opted to get a good shot by using the Mersey tunnels that connected Liverpool and Birkenhead. A clever filmmaking opportunity, filming took place at night while the tunnels were closed for maintenance, allowing the process to roll on efficiently and without frustrating any drivers.
The Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them used Liverpool quite heavily in its recreation of New York. St George’s Hall was used for both internal and external shots, while the ornate Cunard building was transformed into an American department store. St George’s Hall’s tiled flooring design also reportedly inspired the film’s production team.
Guy Ritchie’s 2009 directed rendition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective, Sherlock Holmes took a slightly different look at the deerstalker-wearing eccentric. Despite this, it was still important to feature the city in which the detective solved nearly all his crimes, as London is perhaps as much of a substantial character itself.
A shock twist in the mystery, many scenes in London from Sherlock Holmes were actually not in London at all. Aside from a few unavoidable shots by the Thames river and a pivotal scene in Brompton Cemetery, a large portion of the film was filmed in Liverpool, on both Stanley and Clarence docks. Other scenes substituted in to give the feel of 19thcentury London included streets in both Manchester’s northern quarter and Chatham, not near London at all.
Film production companies aren’t the only ones utilising more affordable areas to base their work. With London being a city that is oversaturated and increasingly challenging to live and work in, it’s no wonder that property investment companies such as RW Invest are drawing a parallel with these film studios and offering opportunities for those wanting to move to northern cities such as Liverpool and Manchester. This can prove to be flexible, cheaper, and ultimately more profitable, both for investors and tenants choosing to migrate.
Fast and Furious
The Mersey tunnels again feature prominently in the blockbuster car-racing Fast and Furious series, in the 6th installment, as well as some other parts of the city. A massive chase through what is intended to be their version of London, scenes confuse Londoners by throwing Liverpool’s Water Street and Dale Street into the mix, no doubt still giving that authentic feel to the many international fans who are focused in on the action.