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Famous film and TV locations in Berkshire

PUBLISHED: 12:23 04 April 2017 | UPDATED: 11:18 15 February 2019

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

Archant

The list of big-budget movies and television dramas that have been filmed in Berkshire makes for impressive reading, and the cameras just keep on rolling... We take a look behind the scenes

Atmospheric woodland, charming villages, magnificent parkland and handsome historic buildings; it’s clear to see what attracts television and film location scouts to our county.

Berkshire is one of the most filmed counties in the country and, of course, our close proximity to London, as well as nearby Pinewood and Shepperton Studios, continues to give our region an irresistible edge when it comes to attracting A-list actors and directors.

In the past 12 months alone we’ve hosted cast and crews from a diverse batch of productions, including the eagerly awaited Elton John biopic Rocketman, starring Taron Egerton, which was filmed at the recently reopened Bray Studios, as well as the new Guy Ritchie directed version of Aladdin, starring Hollywood heavyweight Will Smith, which filmed at the new Arborfield Studios near Wokingham.

And it’s not just behind closed studio doors that the cameras roll. Film crews from action flick Angel Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler, recently descended on Virginia Water in Windsor Great Park for filming. We’ve also seen the return of the fictional Crawley family and their servants from celebrated ITV drama Downton Abbey to Highclere Castle to film the forthcoming movie.

The Downton crew has long succumbed to the allure of Berkshire, having used several locations around the county, including the National Trust’s Georgian mansion, Basildon Park, which was transformed into the interior of the Crawley’s London home, Grantham House.

Filming for one of their Christmas specials took place there and Lauren Taylor, Filming and Locations Manager for the National Trust, recalls: “It was during our busiest period, it was roasting hot and they had Shirley MacLaine on set, who was in her late seventies. They had to bring in giant air-con units; we had these huge pipes coming into the house to keep everyone cool, while recreating Christmas!”

Lauren is part of a team of three that coordinates filming across all the National Trust’s properties and grounds. She adds: “So much work goes into making our properties look authentic, so it’s great that people can use them as almost ready-made film sets. As a charity, it’s also a really good way for us to earn income and put the property on the map, and I think Downton Abbey and Pride & Prejudice – filmed in 2003 – have both really helped to raise the profile of Basildon Park.”

In fact, Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, was the first film that Lauren worked on: “It was the biggest shoot that the Trust had ever done at the time; it’s still in the top five in terms of the scale and the amount of time the crew was on site. It was a huge undertaking, but it was lovely to see the property being taken back to its golden era when there were parties; there were people coming and going and carriages arriving,” she says.

It’s not just stately properties that attract film crews – the grounds and estate buildings are also a big draw. Crews used the irresistibly pretty holiday property Ferry Cottage in the grounds of the National Trust’s Cliveden for the 2017 Diane Keaton film, Hampstead.

She was smitten. “The cottage that we shot in was lovely, next to the river. I’d like to own it and spend some time there. But unfortunately, I will not be able to buy it, so all the best for the public. It’s fabulous – everybody should go, it couldn’t have been more idyllic,” said Keaton.

Cliveden has also recently been on our screens in its own TV show,  A Very British Country House, which follows the people upstairs and downstairs at the mansion.

As we went to press (January 2019), Cliveden’s neighbour, Hedsor House, was preparing to host the cast of a (top secret) major Hollywood feature film. Alongside staging private parties, charity events and weddings, Director Nick Shephard has been hosting film cast and crews at his family’s beautiful Georgian mansion since 2004.

It has been used as Nicole Kidman’s house in The Golden Compass, welcomed Brad Pitt for comedy drama War Machine and the main staircase has twice moonlighted as Downing Street. “It’s very similar; they remove our grey Zoffany wallpaper and then paint the walls yellow,” says Nick.

Most recently, the house appeared in the BBC spy drama Killing Eve.

Having grown up on the estate, seeing scenes filmed at the house he knows so intimately is extra special. “We have huge, dark coal holes and cellars underneath the house, where my brothers and I used to play hide-and-seek as kids, which have been used for filming,” says Nick. “It’s quite surreal at times when dark, eerie parts of the house that we only really went to when we were kids, are selected to be in a movie scene.”

The biggest and longest production filmed at Hedsor House was Quartet in 2011, directed by Dustin Hoffman. “He very kindly gave us a summerhouse that was part of the film, which still sits on the main lawns and can be used in photos by couples who marry here,” says Nick.

If inviting a film crew into your home sounds appealing, location agency JJ Media Group has locations of all shapes and sizes across Berkshire on their books; from cottages and barns to a brewery, theatre, polo field, jets – even a former gama missile site used in a recent Star Wars movie.

“Because of the tax breaks and incentives on offer in the UK, there is so much filming taking place here and we have welcomed a lot more US film companies,” says Emma Clarke-Bolton, Senior Account Handler at JJ Media. “Many London locations have been exhausted, so crews are looking to go further afield to find somewhere truly unique and, being close to the larger studios, Berkshire is a rich territory.” 

JJ Media is looking for more properties in Berkshire. Want to hire out your property as a film, TV or photographic shoot location? Visit jjmedia.com/connect

 

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