Scandal | 1998
- DIRECTOR |
- Michael Caton-Jones
This account of the consequences of the affair between Cabinet Minister John Profumo and Christine Keeler, which brought down the Conservative government in the Sixties, is upstaged by Ian McKellen’s bizarre topknot, the misjudged result of shaving his hairline for the role of Profumo rather than resorting to a wig, which makes him look distractingly like a Samurai warrior.
Society osteopath Stephen Ward, who enjoyed setting up fun get-togethers for the upper crust, committed suicide after becoming the fall guy for the whole debacle. He lived in Marylebone, at 17 Wimpole Mews, which had become too modernised for a Sixties-set film. Ward’s (John Hurt) flat in the movie is 42 Bathurst Mews, a cobbled mews in Bayswater, W2, which was previously seen in 1970 Bette Davis drama Connecting Rooms.
The country estate, where a monied elite indulged in poolside frolics, was, notoriously, Cliveden, home of the Astor family, two miles north of Taplow on the Hedsor Road near Maidenhead, Buckinghamshire. It's now the Cliveden House Hotel, Cliveden Road.
Although Cliveden had previously been seen in movies, including the Beatles’ second feature film Help! (where it stood in for ‘Buckingham Palace’), it is now a hotel. Its connection with the Keeler-Profumo affair was not one the owners wanted to emphasise, and permission to film was refused.
The country estate in the film is a mix of two locations. The interior is the much-used Wilton House, in the town of Wilton, two and a half miles west of Salisbury on the A30, Wiltshire. A veteran of many movies, including Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon; Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers; The Madness of King George; two Jane Austen adaptations – the 2005 film of Pride And Prejudice and Ang Lee’s Sense And Sensibility; and The Young Victoria,
The West End nightclub in which Christine Keeler (Joanne Whalley) and Mandy Rice Davies (Bridget Fonda) sample the high life was the Café de Paris, Coventry Street, in London’s West End between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square.
During the Blitz, when most of the West End closed down, the Café remained open on the assumption that it was bomb-proof. Tragically, this turned out not to be the case, and a direct hit killed 34 people.
Rebuilt, it continued to provide entertainment for the glitterati until it hit a slump in the Eighties, when it found fame as a movie backdrop, for Absolute Beginners, The Krays; and the Café slummed it a little as the ‘Soho’ strip club where John Goodman relaxed in King Ralph. It bounced back as a glamorous nitespot in Lone Scherfig’s 2009 Oscar-nominated An Education and as a decadent 'Vegas' club in X-Men: First Class, and became the Krays' 'Hide-A-Way' club in Legend. In 2020, following the Covid lockdown, it finally closed its doors for good. It had to be recreated in the studio for the Sixties scenes of Edgar Wright's Last Night In Soho.
For the trial scenes, the ‘Old Bailey’ is also a conflation of two locations. The courtroom itself is in Shire Hall, High Pavement, Nottingham.
The exterior is that of the old County Hall Building, on the South bank alongside Westminster Bridge. 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, for the hi-rise apartment of Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) in Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass, and as a 30's prison in the 1995 film of Richard III. It's on the riverside terrace in front of County Hall that Alfred Hitchcock makes a cameo appearance in his 1973 film Frenzy.