Richard III | 1995
Based on Richard Eyre’s lauded National Theatre production, Richard Loncraine’s cinematic realisation of William Shakespeare’s blackly comic history play makes boldly imaginative use of existing London and Home Counties locations to conjure up an alternative 1930s England.
The locations move from a florid Victorian Gothic style for the old order of King Edward IV (John Wood), to a brutalist Thirties look as the neo-fascist dictatorship of Richard of Gloucester (Ian McKellen) takes power.
The royal family’s London palace is the extravagantly mock-Gothic exterior of St Pancras International, the old St Pancras Station, now home of the Eurostar terminal. Cheekily, the film relocates the station to the banks of the Thames, but you’ll still find it reigning over Euston Road, NW1.
The palace interior knits together two disparate architectural gems. The opening party is held in St Cuthbert with St Matthias, 50 Philbeach Gardens, Earl’s Court, SW5. The red brick church, tucked away from the roar of Warwick Road traffic in West London, houses a striking late Victorian/Edwardian Arts & Crafts interior.
The other palace interiors were found in Strawberry Hill House, 268 Waldegrave Road, Twickenham. The house, built for Horace Walpole, whose novel The Castle Of Otranto is regarded as the first Gothic novel, reflects the 18th century writer’s extravagant tastes.
Calling the castle his ‘plaything’, Walpole based his highly theatrical designs on prints of Gothic cathedrals and abbeys, and recreating them in wood, plaster or even papier maché instead of carved stone. The unmissable house has recently been painstakingly restored. See it for yourself on a self-guided tour.
Ingeniously, the Undercroft, a vaulted pedestrian walkway beneath the chapel of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2, was glazed in to provide the Queen’s lodgings, where Queen Elizabeth (Annette Bening) and Lord Rivers (Robert Downey Jr) enjoy breakfast. It its more usual open air state, it was used for the duel in Tony Richardson’s Oscar-winning 1963 film of Tom Jones, and it’s also where Algy (Rupert Everett) accuses Jack (Colin Firth) of being a secret Bunburyist in Oliver Parker’s adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest.
The royal family’s seaside retreat is a conflation of two South Coast landmarks. The exotically ‘Indian’ domes and towers are unmistakably the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, East Sussex.
The unique mock-Oriental, Regency fantasy which must be seen to be believed, was built between 1787 and 1823 for the Prince Regent (later King George IV), son of George III, whose story is famously portrayed in The Madness Of King George.
For such a visual feast, the Royal Pavilion, Pavilion is not seen too often on screen – maybe it’s a little too overwhelming – though it does feature in Neil Jordan’s 1999 adaptation of The End Of The Affair, and in the Hollywood musical On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, with Barbra Streisand.
The seafront terrace is about 30 miles east, towards Hastings. It’s the Grade 1-listed 1930s De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, now restored and used as an arts centre.
The crown of England is offered to a scheming Richard at a fascist-style rally, held in the soaring brutalist 1920s Lawrence Hall, originally one of the two Royal Horticultural Halls, Greycoat Street at Elverton Street, Westminster, SW1. The massive concrete arches of the hall, which was leased to Westminster School in 2011, can also be seen in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Philip Noyce’s 1997 film of The Saint, with Val Kilmer.
it’s back to West London, and Earl’s Court again, to see the backstage preparations for Richard’s cynically stage-managed show, which are are the bowels of the famous Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre, which stood on Warwick Road, SW5, until shockingly being demolished in 2015.
Another basement area, this time of the old Pearl Assurance Building in Holborn, was used for the military mortuary where Richard audaciously woos Lady Anne (Kristin Scott Thomas) over the body of her murdered husband. Now a luxury hotel, the Rosewood London Hotel, 252 High Holborn, is another location seen in The Saint, as well as The Bourne Ultimatum.
The balcony beneath a giant clockface, where the doomed Buckingham (Jim Broadbent) realises he’s fallen out of favour with the King, can be seen way up on the tower of Shell Mex House, on the Victoria Embankment, just to the west of Waterloo Bridge.
With regime change underway, the film’s settings become increasingly austere, typified by the cold but stylish bunker of the newly-crowned King, which is Senate House, part of the University of London, Malet Street, in Bloomsbury behind the British Museum.
No stranger to the screen, its deco corridors were previously used as the ‘New York’ clinic in Tony Scott’s The Hunger, and since as ‘Gotham City’ courts in both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
The production really mines the capital’s art deco heritage with King’s private newsreel cinema, which is Eltham Palace, Court Yard, Eltham, SE9. Originally the boyhood home of a real English king, Henry VIII, the one-time medieval manor house was rescued and restored in the Thirties by textile magnates, the Courtauld family, who built their glamorous Art Deco London showpiece next to the remains of the royal palace. The sleek interior was passed off as the salon of a luxury liner in the 2008 film of Brideshead Revisited.
Richard’s military HQ was Steam Town, a rail museum at Carnforth in Lancashire, which has since closed down. Carnforth itself is famous as the railway station used in David Lean’s 1945 British classic Brief Encounter.
Two of London’s famous ex-power stations are also drafted in to provide monumental backdrops.
Bankside Power Station is used as the massively intimidating exterior of a Stalinist-style ‘Tower of London’. The vast, red brick structure has now, of course, been granted a new lease of life as Tate Modern, Bankside.
The prison interior is the old County Hall Building, also on the South bank alongside Westminster Bridge, the exterior of which also supplied the entrance to the ‘Lord Protector’s headquarters. Opened in 1922 as the headquarters of London County Council, and subsequently home to the GLC, the building now houses the Sea Life London Aquarium, hotels, restaurants and other attractions. You may previously have seen County Hall’s art deco interior standing in for ‘CIA HQ, Langley’ in Brian De Palma’s Mission Impossible and for the hi-rise apartment of Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) in Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass. It's on the riverside terrace in front of County Hall that Alfred Hitchcock makes a cameo appearance in his 1973 film Frenzy.
The Tate’s Turbine Hall stood in for the interior of the ‘Ark of the Arts’in Alfonso Cuarón’s Children Of Men and, by coincidence, the Ark’s exterior was Battersea Power Station. It’s the still-deserted hulk of Battersea which becomes the site of the climactic ‘Battle of Bosworth’ in Richard III.
While many and varied schemes for its reuse come and go (latest is as a proposed stadium for Chelsea Football Club), the iconic building regularly serves as a movie location – notably used for the spectacular explosion in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and for the industrial wastelands of Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus.