The UK’s starring role as a location double

The UK’s starring role as a location double

Sometimes producers choose film and TV locations because they are seeking a specific look that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.

But usually location decision-making is dependent on a range of variables. In the case of the UK, for example, the thought process might be: “We want to shoot in the UK because of the quality of the infrastructure and the attractive tax incentives, but can we get the exact look we want? Will we have to supplement the shoot with other costly locations trips?”

Well the good news is that the UK is actually pretty good at doubling for other parts of the world. While it would probably struggle to conjure up a decent desert or a Himalayan summit, it has managed to replicate most other urban and rural backdrops. So if locations are perceived as a potential obstacle to shooting in the UK, then here are some examples of the country’s versatility.

As Moscow
Kenneth Branagh used Liverpool and London to double as Moscow in his movie Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Partly this was down to tax incentives but also because shooting in Moscow is logistically challenging. Red 2 used The Royal Exchange in Bank to double as a Moscow side street. Bizarrely, it also managed to recreate the Kremlin at a beautiful building in East London’s Docklands called the Tobacco Dock.

As New York
England’s industrial heritage has given its major cities the warehouses, docks and networks of alleys often associated with New York. In Paramount Pictures’ Captain America, for example, 1940s Brooklyn was shot in Manchester, whilst Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (also Paramount Pictures) staged a high-speed Manhattan car chase in Liverpool’s Birkenhead Tunnel. It’s worth noting that the UK’s major cities are all well-crewed production centres.

As Washington
The feature film Philomena used Nash House to double for a Washington office while the London Marriott Hotel doubled for a Washington hotel. More impressive, however, was the romantic comedy Chasing Liberty which used a house in Essex to double as the White House. Hylands House, near Chelmsford, was the perfect way to get round the security restrictions associated with the real White House.

As Shanghai
Unlikely as it seems, most of Skyfall’s China shots were filmed in and around London (the exceptions were a few China-based establishing shots). Broadgate Tower doubled as a Shanghai office building while the escalators at Royal Ascot Racecourse were used for Shanghai’s airport. Virgin Active’s Canary Riverside Club also featured as a Shanghai hotel pool. Separately, director Christopher Nolan used the Farmiloe Building in Clerkenwell as a Shanghai warehouse in his Batman franchise.

As St Petersburg
Somerset House in central London has doubled for St Petersburg in James Bond movie GoldenEye. The building has also doubled for New York and Switzerland in X-Men: First Class.

As Paris
People are still surprised to learn that large sections of period movie Les Miserables were shot in the UK. Some of the film’s most iconic shots took place around the grand baroque buildings of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, south London. These were supplemented by shots in the city of Winchester, Hampshire – with the cathedral the main focus of attention. A special boat-build

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