About A Boy | 2002
If the marriage of Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg sounded promising, the teaming of American Pie bakers, the Weitz brothers, with Hugh Grant to bring Nick Hornby’s novel to the screen seemed positively gruesome. Yet, against all the odds, this one works.
The neighbourhood, where Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) flouts John Donne (or is that Jon Bon Jovi) with his solitary island life is Clerkenwell, once a radical working-class (Lenin edited the Bolshevik newspaper Iskra at 37a Clerkenwell Green), now media-darlingville.
You won’t find the striking entrance to his no-frills, techno-head flat, though, which was added just for the movie to the St James Walk side entrance of 16-18 St James Walk, at the corner of Sekforde Street.
Will indulges himself, shopping at Comptoir Gascon, 63 Charterhouse Street, (tel: 020.7608.0851), a mouthwatering French deli (an offshoot of restaurant Club Gascon and Cellar Gascon at 57 West Smithfield, alongside the Church of St Bartholomew (where Grant famously didn’t get married at the climax of Four Weddings And A Funeral).
St James Clerkenwell, Clerkenwell Close, is the church where Will doesn’t volunteer to help at the drop-in centre (you can see the church again in Dance With A Stranger), and the nearby Woodbridge Chapel, Haywards Place, is where he does attend SPATs (‘Single Parents Alone Together’), as a cheesy ploy to meet single mothers.
Will waits for his date outside the BFI London IMAX Cinema, South Bank, 1 Charlie Chaplin Walk, Waterloo, SE1. You can’t miss the cinema’s giant illuminated rotunda in what used to be the old concrete ‘bullring’ in front of Waterloo Station.
Big, big, big is the order of the day. Overwhelming cinematic experience or monumental headache? Your call. Part of the BFI, the 477-seat cinema, with the UK’s largest screen (20 by 26 metres) opened in 1999, with the emphasis on spectacular travelogues, occasional 3D features and showings of classic movies (which don’t occupy the full giant screen).
He splits up with a series of increasingly enraged women at the spacious, minimalist Otto Dining Lounge, which subsequently became Graze – which itself closed. The premises is no loner a restaurant – it’s since become the Everyman Cinema, 215 Sutherland Avenue, Maida Vale, W9.
The hairdresser, where Will gets a call from Marcus, was Parsons Skott, 243 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, W11, just off Portobello Road. It’s since closed down.
By the Penguin Pool of Regent’s Park Zoo, Will and and Marcus chat about guy stuff. A long-established film location, the Zoo can be seen in Carol Reed’s The Fallen Idol, The Jokers, Arabesque, Turtle Diary, An American Werewolf in London and – of course – its Reptile House is featured in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
1 St Stephen’s Crescent, W2 , opposite St Stephen’s Church at Talbot Road, Notting Hill, is home to single mother Rachel (Rachel Weisz).
The really classy restaurant in which Will tries to unravel his web of deceit is Hakkasan, 8 Hanway Place, W1, off Tottenham Court Road (tube: Tottenham Court Road, Northern and Central Lines). Forget the rather dingy sidestreet, it’s high, high style in this Chinese restaurant from the creators of the Wagamama noodle chain – the interior did scoop a design award, and it’s regarded as not only the best Chinese restaurant in the UK, but one of the Top 50 restaurants in the world.
The school concert, where Will risks his cool to accompany Marcus’s shaky version of Killing Me Softly, is not a school at all, but Acton Town Hall, Acton High Street.