Cinderella | 2015
After Thor and Frankenstein, Kenneth Branagh brings another legendary character to the screen with this refreshingly straightforward, romantic live-action update of Disney’s own 1950 cartoon.
Before you get too carried away about the prospect of swirling round that sumptuous ballroom, remember that Branagh seems to like working in the studio and most of the film was shot on stages at Pinewood Studios near Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire, home of those great British institutions, the Bond films and the Carry On... series.
In fact, the Grand Ball was filmed on Pinewood’s 007 Soundstage, the largest in Europe. The gigantic set (here come the stats: 50 yards long, 35 yards wide and 30 feet high) was designed by Dante Ferretti, the Production Designer who worked with Pier Paolo Pasolini and Federico Fellini, and went on to design The Aviator, Shutter Island and Gangs Of New York for Martin Scorsese. Ferretti took visual elements from such displays of architectural bravura as the Louvre, the Opera Garnier and the Hotel de Soubise in Paris, as well as the UK’s Blenheim Palace.
The interiors for the family house of Ella (Lily James) were also built in the studio, but the exterior was constructed in Black Park Country Park, which backs onto the studio and has predictably seen in countless productions.
Blenheim Palace, in the village of Woodstock in Oxfordshire, not only provided inspiration for the look of the palace, the vast estate provided its gardens. You’ll remember the coaches rattling over the Palladian style Grand Bridge just below the house, which divides Blenheim’s Lake from Queen Pool.
One of England's largest houses, Blenheim was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh as the family seat of the Dukes of Marlborough, the Churchill family, and was named after the Battle of Blenheim. Built around 1720, it went on to become the birthplace of wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.
Blenheim Palace previously supplied the exterior of ‘Elsinore’ for Branagh’s 1996 film of Hamlet, and has also hosted filming for the 1998 film of TV’s The Avengers, Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, The Young Victoria and King Ralph (it’s currently seen as the Palace in TV’s The Royals).
The woodland, where Ella first meets Prince Kit (Richard Madden) as he leads a stag hunt, is an area called Bears Rails in Windsor Great Park, which which surrounds the royal residence of Windsor Castle in Berkshire. The ancient woodland, which takes its name from the legend that animals for Royal bear-baiting were once kept here, is also featured in another fairy-tale film, Snow White And The Huntsman.
A couple more real locations include the Palace room in which the Prince Kit and his men practise their fencing skills, which is the Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College, King William Walk, London.
The college was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and the Hall was used as the dining room of the naval hospital until the College moved out. Painter James Thornhill collaborated with architect Nicholas Hawksmoor for nineteen years on this trompe l’oeil extravaganza. It was here that the body of Lord Nelson lay in state.
The Painted Hall, also seen in The Madness Of King George, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Quills, the 1998 film of The Avengers, Michael Winner’s 1983 remake of The Wicked Lady, is open to the public. You can see the College’s exterior in countless films, including Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Thor: The Dark World, as ‘Paris’ in Les Misérables and – very briefly – in The Dark Knight Rises.
The sculptural water feature at Cliveden House Hotel, Taplow, northeast of Maidenhead on the B476 Hedsor Road on the Berkshire / Buckinghamshire border, was copied to provide the 'Shell Fountain', seen as Cinderella arrives at the Royal palace for the Ball.
And as the palace timepiece counts down the fateful strokes to midnight, the glittering gold face is that of the clock tower at Cliveden.
Once home to the Astor family, Cliveden – now part stately home, part luxury hotel – was the real site of events recounted in the 1989 movie Scandal, and supplied the interior of ‘Buckingham Palace’ for the 1965 Beatles film, Help! as well as appearing in Carry On – Don’t Lose Your Head and Guy Ritchie's 2009 Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr.