Berkshire’s best filming locations and what the celebs have to say about them

PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 March 2020

The west front of Basildon Park, Berkshire. (c) National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The west front of Basildon Park, Berkshire. (c) National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Watch out, there’s a film crew about! Actually there usually is a film crew at work somewhere in Berkshire because it is one of the favourite counties for both film and TV producers and the stars who appear in front of those cameras. We talked to some of them...

Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech (C) James Veysey/Rex ShutterstockHugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech (C) James Veysey/Rex Shutterstock

The cameras are rolling again in the county for Midsommer Murders and nobody is more delighted than James Hendrix who plays DS Jamie Winter - after all, he was born here.

"We are working on the 21st series at the moment and it is always good to be back in Berkshire. I was born and brought up here so I feel really at home when we are filming in Windsor, Eton, Littlewick Green or any of the brilliant locations frequently used in the series," he says. "It is great that the local people take an interest, offer us cups of tea but don't impose. Nice people."

Helena Bonham-Carter spent some time in Berkshire when she was filming for Great Expectations. Englefield House near Reading has been the location for many well-known productions, including the classic King's Speech and TV favourites like Poirot and Agatha Christie's Marple.

"I remember it well," said Helena. "It was a lovely location and I do remember that when we were not actually filming, it was a delight to just sit and enjoy being there, very old English, including the cup of tea."

Another extremely popular venue for film production is Basildon Park. Even Downton Abbey has been shot here as Hugh Bonneville - Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham - explained: "Basildon Park was found to be ideal as the interior setting for Grantham House, the family's London residence," he said. "You get used to the film world turning places into something they are not but Basildon Park was perfect for all the interior scenes.

"I found it fascinating and it was especially amazing to discover that the house had been used as a military convalescence hospital during World War 1 since the Downton residence experienced exactly the same scenario during early parts of the series."

Another star who appreciated the delights of Basildon Park was Keira Knightley, star of the big-screen version of Pride and Prejudice. "We almost toured the country using different locations but I think we all fell in love with Basildon Park," she said. "You could not have found a more beautiful place in a more lovely part of the country. I know Berkshire well and it has so many beautiful parts but Basildon Park was really memorable.

"I was delighted to be back a few years later when we were shooting The Duchess. The dining room scenes were shot there, which looked fantastic. It was lovely to see it again."

Oakley Court is near Bray and has a beautiful setting alongside a beautiful stretch of the Thames. The house itself is dramatically gothic so no prizes for guessing what genre of films has mostly been shot there. Of course, horror films!

Oakley Court is actually a lovely old 19th century house but by the time the legendary Hammer Films had adjusted some lighting it was scary for even the actors and actresses. Films like The Brides of Dracula, The Reptile, Plague of the Zombies and later even a version of The Hound of the Baskervilles was shot there. It was perfect for the Rocky Horror Picture Show too. For television it was a little less awesome and was used in Pie In The Sky, the gentle detective series starring Richard Griffiths.

The Hammer films were shot in the 1960s but Peter Cushing, who starred in The Brides of Dracula, once said: "The location was perfect for this kind of film. At the end of the day's shooting, nobody wanted to be the last one there and to have to switch off the lights."

Susan Sarandon was one of the stars of the Rocky Horror film and recalls being on set at Oakley Court.

"I loved the place," she said.

"It was strange because it was quite daunting when you first went there and it was wonderful for spooky scenes. Yet when you spent a bit of time there you picked up a vibe of warmth. It was a bit like a building version of Beauty and the Beast."

The stars love Berkshire and many have bought homes in the county. Indeed, it is the perfect place for lights, camera, action!

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BERKSHIRE ON THE BIG SCREEN

Keep your eyes peeled for some familiar places coming to a cinema near you

Dolittle

Various locations around Berkshire and Buckinghamshire feature in this big budget adventure comedy directed by Stephen Gaghan. Windsor Great Park was the location for a duck shoot scene, while the village set for Puddleby-on-the-Marsh - home of Doctor John Dolittle - was created and filmed in Langley Park in Iver. Starring Robert Downey Jr in the title role, alongside Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen and Jim Broadbent, the film is due for release in February 2020.

Blithe Spirit

Director Edward Hall's new comedy, based on the 1941 Noel Coward play, stars Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann, Emilia Fox and Judi Dench. Due for release in May 2020, it features several National Trust locations including Cliveden. The 17th century house and gardens in Taplow is no stranger to appearances on the silver screen, having notched up an impressive CV including, most recently, the location for scenes in Kenneth Branagh's 2015 version of Cinderella and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes in 2009.

Fast & Furious 9

Vin Diesel and Nathalie Emmanuel once again star in the latest offering in the Fast & Furious action franchise, due for release in May 2020. While cast and crew trailers were stationed at Newbury Rugby Club in August, the pair were spotted filming at nearby Greenham Common RAF base. Star Wars fans will already be familiar with the former RAF station, which was a filming location for the 2015 film Stars Wars: The Force Awakens and the 2017 hit, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

The Witches

There was much speculation in June when a major film set featuring an impressive columned building complete with a dramatic staircase, sweeping driveway and an ornate fountain were erected near the Leptis Magna Ruins in Windsor Great Park, a sight which features on the Great West Way. The set was built for Robert Zemeckis' remake of Roald Dahl's The Witches, starring Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci and Octavia Spencer, due for release on 16 October 2020.

Cruella

Emma Stone stars as the leather-clad evil protagonist in the new Disney blockbuster following the life of the young Cruella de Vil, due for release in May 2021. While much of the movie - also starring Mark Strong and Emma Thompson - was shot at nearby Shepperton Studios, cast and crew were also rumoured to be filming on location in the reception area of Bracknell's old council building, the Easthampstead Works, in November. Filming also reportedly took place at Reading's Englefield Estate, which has most noticeably also appeared in the likes X-Men: First Class, The King's Speech and Great Expectations.

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PUT YOUR MONEY ON 007

There's nothing quite like a day at the races and Ascot is not only famous for its Royal racecourse but also as a film location. Two of its starring roles have been in James Bond films.

When Roger Moore starred as 007 in A View To A Kill, Mr Bond enjoyed a day at Ascot but a few years later when Daniel Craig made Skyfall, it was a very different matter.

"Someone realised that the main building at Ascot was perfect for a scene in the movie," said Daniel. "It had the ideal escalator and space and acres of glass windows so it was perfect to become Shanghai Airport. The facilities were great and we all enjoyed filming there. The only downside was that unfortunately, we didn't get to see any racing. The schedule was arranged to fit between race meetings. I am sure 007 would have picked a winner."

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POIROT'S PLEASURE

Englefield House was used more than once for filming the hugely popular Poirot TV series starring David Suchet, who remembers his time there.

"I remember arriving for work and thinking what a beautiful old building and gardens there were at Englefield House," he said. "It suited Poirot very well, it was his kind of place. He would have enjoyed strolling around the grounds as if he owned it and checking that the gardeners had cut the grass to inch-perfection. It was indeed a pleasure to film there and I am not surprised that it has been such a popular location for many productions. It has so many excellent areas inside and out and the people who are in charge and who work there are always very welcoming.

"It is truly an excellent part of the world in which to take tea on the lawn. Poirot would most definitely approve."

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