The Riot Club | 2014
- DIRECTOR |
- Lone Scherfig
Perish the thought that the film's drunken, debauched Riot Club might have been inspired by Oxford University's Bullingdon Club, the fraternal social club that has provided so many pillars of the community, cabinet ministers and the occasional Prime Minister.
Any resemblance to events or persons living or dead is clearly coincidental.
It’s Winchester’s Quad seen in the film’s 17th century prologue as an enraged husband barges into the college to confront the original Lord Riot (Harry Lloyd).
It’s been a popular location over the years, seen in The Other Boleyn Girl, Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth, with Cate Blanchett, Bob Rafelson’s 1989 Mountains of the Moon; and even as the country mansion robbed by Scousers in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels.
Dorney pops up in a very different guise later in the film.
In the present day, Miles (Max Irons) is seen arriving in the same Winchester Quad as part of the year’s new intake into ‘Oxford University’.
Oxford itself does provide the street exteriors, including the modern digs to which Miles is directed after agreeing to swap rooms with Alistair (Sam Claflin). This is the new block on Magpie Lane at Merton Lane, built for Corpus Christi College.
Magpie Lane has its own colourful history as a haunt for sex workers, previously known by the unambiguously direct name of Gropecunt Lane.
A young hopeful asks George (Jack Farthing) about entry to the notorious Riot Club as they’re walking past Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre. He gets the brutal answer that, if he needs to ask, he has no chance.
It’s also in front of the Sheldonian, on Broad Street, that the posh boys set off for a nighttime drive, only to manage a few yards down Broad Street before Toby (Olly Alexander) vomits copiously over the car.
No problem. The car keys are posted through the letterbox of a charity shop. Easier to get another one than clean up the mess.
We leave Oxford to find the huge college dining hall, its walls emblazoned with crests, where Miles first meets working-class Lauren (Holliday Grainger) which is Middle Temple Hall, part of the Middle Temple complex opposite the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in London.
Properly known as the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, this is one of the four Inns of Court entitled to call their members to the English Bar as barristers, along with the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn. You can access the quiet grounds via narrow little passageways running south from the Strand.
The Elizabethan Hall, with its impressive hammerbeam roof, dates from 1572. It survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 but was damaged by German bombs during World War II. It was previously seen onscreen as ‘Banqueting Hall at the Palace of Whitehall’ in Shakespeare In Love.
Its grounds were used for an extensive chase sequence in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, a musical number in Mary Poppins Returns as well as being featured in The Wolfman, Sherlock Holmes and Wilde.
Even older than Middle Temple, the Great Hall is one of the finest surviving halls of the 13th century.
Winchester was once one of the most important cities in the country, rivalling London to be capital. The Hall is all that remains of Winchester Castle and contains what is claimed to be that great symbol of medieval mythology, King Arthur’s Round Table.
The Villiers country estate, where Harry hosts a clay pigeon shoot and where his chums meet his Uncle Jeremy (Tom Hollander), a Conservative MP, is Wrotham Park, a neo-Palladian near Barnet in Hertfordshire. It’s a frequent location seen in The Gentlemen, King Ralph, Gosford Park and many others.
Wrotham is an events venue but not generally open to the public.
As Miles and Lauren begin to get closer, they talk on the tiny rooftop space above All Bar One overlooking Oxford’s High Street.
There’s a bit of a surprise with that raucous college bar where the guys of the rowing club are performing a rowdy striptease.
Beneath the pubby set dressing, this is once again Dorney Court (the main Hall), as is the nearby room of Hugo where he invites Miles for a smoke.
Both Miles and Alistair are chosen to suffer the extreme initiation rites for admission into the club, and it’s while Miles is studying with Lauren in Duke Humfrey's Library, Oxford, that he’s roughly abducted for the initiation rite.
This is the oldest reading room in the Bodleian Library, itself one of the oldest libraries in Europe.
Having reached their full complement of ten members, the Club books the function room at the ‘Bull’s Head’, a country pub (one that has not yet barred them after hearing of their antics). The evening of ostentatious drinking and eating that follows provides the dark heart of the film.
Its screen history reaches back to 1953 classic comedy Genevieve. It's also been featured in Carry On Dick, 2008 romcom Made of Honor, with Patrick Dempsey, 1960 comedy Man In The Moon, with Kenneth More, and of course in that regular TV feast of countryside mayhem, Midsomer Murders.
After the party ends in violent mayhem, it’s only Alistair who’s sent down (expelled from the university). But don’t worry about him. A cosy meeting in one of London’s gentlemens’ clubs with good old Uncle Jeremy guarantees a bright future for the lad.
The club is the Travellers Club, 106 Pall Mall, which stands alongside the much more familiar Reform Club.
Established in 1819, the Travellers Club is the oldest of the surviving Pall Mall clubs and one of the most exclusive.
Living up to its name, the original rules excluded from membership anyone “who has not travelled out of the British islands to a distance of at least five hundred miles from London in a direct line”.