Run Fatboy Run | 2007
Set in a, happily, more multi-racial London than the genre usually gets, this predictable Rom-com just about gets by on the strengths of its likeable cast and the use of London locations around Hackney and the East End more usually associated with gangster movies.
It’s in Hackney that Dennis Doyle (Simon Pegg) does a runner on what was intended to be his wedding day to Libby Odell (Thandie Newton), from her home, 21 Meynell Crescent, north of Victoria Park, in a very nice part of Hackney, London E9.
He doesn't run too far, though. Just a little to the west, where the basement flat he rents from Mr Goshdashtidar, is 73 Sandringham Road, London E8.
He works as a security guard in the newly renovated section of Spitalfields Market, chasing the shoplifting drag queen along Brushfield Street, Whitechapel, E1 (tube: Liverpool Street; Central, Circle, Metropolitan or Hammersmith & City Lines).
A birthday treat for his young son, Jake, goes awry when he gets arrested attempting to buy tickets for Lord of the Rings – the musical – outside the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Catherine Street, Covent Garden WC2. Although it’s been rebuilt several times (the current building dates from 1812), there’s been a theatre on this site since 1663. Across the street (and once linked to the theatre) is the Nell of Old Drury pub, featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s Covent Garden-set Frenzy.
Dramatic convention demands that Libby start dating a good-looking and rich smoothie, who we all know will turn out to be a bad sort. Film marketing demands tan American co-star. Enter Whit (Hank Azaria). Dennis and Whit have a frosty meeting on Lafone Street, on Shad Thames, the restored Thamesside warehouse area (hey, isn’t this where Bridget enjoyed her first snog with the good-looking, rich smoothie Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones’s Diary?).
Whit reveals he’s running the Nike River Run (there’s no such thing, but the filmmakers couldn’t get the rights to use the London Marathon), and – hey – the plot is set in motion.
‘Libby’s Nice Buns’, Libby’s quite nice-looking bakery shop, is now Supernice, 106 Columbia Road E2 at Ravenscroft Street (don’t get too excited by the prospect of those fairy cakes – it was an empty shop dressed for the film, and now sells designer furnishings and gifts).
Directly opposite the shop is the FleaPit, 49 Columbia Road, E2, the cafe in which Dennis orders “English breakfast with extra English breakfast”, as Libby asks him to smooth over things between Jake and Whit.
The visually striking flat of Dennis’s laddish pal Gordon (Dylan Moran) is Jellicoe House, Ropley Street E2, at the eastern end of Columbia Road.
Columbia Road is home to the Royal Oak pub, seen in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and The Krays (the keen-eyed will glimpse the pub in the background of Run Fatboy Run). Visit Columbia Road on Sunday morning to see the famous Columbia Road Flower Market.
Dennis himself hangs out with his dubious poker-playing cronies in a piano warehouse just off the famous Brick Lane, E2. Like Columbia Road, Brick Lane is rarely used as a Rom-com setting. The Indian food paradise is home to the restaurant where Fergus enjoys a quiet meal with Dil in The Crying Game.
On to slightly more predictable Rom-com locations. Whit, inevitably, works in the the phallic the phallic Swiss Re Tower, 30 St Mary Axe – aka The Gherkin (US, read ‘Pickle’) in the financial heart of the city (tube: Liverpool Street; Central, Circle, Metropolitan or Hammersmith & City Lines). No good ever comes from working in this photo-friendly icon (which is not open to the public). Russell Crowe worked here before heading off to France in Ridley Scott’s A Good Year, the nastily ambitious Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) wangled a job here in Woody Allen's Match Point, and police psychologist Dr Glass thought this a good place to conduct his sessions with the even more devious Catherine Trammell (Sharon Stone) in Basic Instinct 2.
Not too far away, the group statue, called Rush Hour, can be seen at Broadgate behind Liverpool Street Station, as can the vast reclining figure – the Broadgate Venus – past which Dennis and Whit walk on the way to ‘spin class’, is behind Liverpool Street Station. The gym itself is Cannons Health Club, 11 Endell Street , Covent Garden, WC2 (tube: Covent Garden; Piccadilly Line).
Whit occupies a very nice penthouse – where he publicly proposes to Libby at her birthday bash – above the glitzy London Marriott Hotel West India Quay on Hertsmere Road, West India Quay in Canary Wharf. While still under construction, this was the rooftop from which Michael Gambon dangled Daniel Craig in Layer Cake.
A rather more conventional Rom-com location is Hampstead Heath, the wild heathland of north London, with its spectacular views over the City from Parliament Hill Fields, where Dennis enjoys quality time with Jake.
The offices of the Nike River Run, where Dennis tries to invent a bogus charity, is another gangster location. It’s Bethnal Green Town Hall, Cambridge Heath Road at Patriot Square, which you might recognise as the office of Porn King Harry the Hatchet in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, or the tailor of Benicio Del Toro in another Guy Ritchie film, Snatch. It’s also been featured in Velvet Goldmine, in Julian Simpson's 1999 conspiracy thriller The Criminal, Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering and Joe Wright’s Atonement.
And so, finally to the Nike River Run itself, which begins at City Hall, HQ of the greater London Authority, on the South bank of the Thames alongside Tower Bridge.
The bridge on which Dennis dubious mates catch up with him amid the media frenzy is way to the west – that most romantic and photogenic of London’s bridges, Albert Bridge, at the foot of Oakley Street in Chelsea – previously featured in Sliding Doors and Absolute Beginners. It’s in Battersea Park that he encounters The Wall, the mental and physical block he has to overcome to finish the race.