Though it takes place in Paris, Inception has its protagonist Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio) actually meets his old lecturer Miles (Michael Caine) and recruits architecture student Ariadne (Ellen Page) in London. Director Christopher Nolan chose to film in the historic buildings of his alma mater – selecting the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre (also seen in Starter for 10) and the beautiful Flaxman Gallery. Interested parties can keep an eye out for public lectures taking part in the Gustave Tuck, while the Flaxman Gallery is currently closed for refurbishment but from January 2015, will be open to the public between 1pm and 5pm on weekdays.
Opened in 1840 and still a working cemetery, Brompton Cemetery is one of London’s Magnificent Seven, and rightly so. With a mix of family mausoleums, individual graves and imposing architecture, it epitomises Victorian London, which is likely why it was chosen as the rising place of the villain Lord Blackwood for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (2009). The location was also used in Goldeneye and Eastern Promises, lending a touch of gothic drama to both. Located near West London’s Westfield centre and the designer boutiques of Chelsea, Brompton Cemetery makes for a truly peaceful escape from city bustle.
No article about London film locations would be complete without an inclusion from Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Cornetto Trilogy. With Shaun of the Dead’s Winchester Tavern – real-life Duke of Albany – now closed and redeveloped into flats, fans can still sup a pint where Pegg and Frost once supped with a visit to the Wenlock Arms, the interior of which was used for Pub No. 5, The Good Companions, on the pub crawl to end all pub crawls. An award-winner in its own right for its excellent selection of cask ales, visitors will be spoilt for choice.
The Farmiloe Building was the headquarters for lead and glass firm Farmiloe and Sons from its creation in 1868 until 1999. Though the inside of the building required wrought-iron beamwork for the heavy produce, the facade is all palazzo styling, which has not gone unnoticed by Hollywood. The Farmiloe has featured in numerous films – as a restaurant in Eastern Promises, a hotel in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and as Gotham Police Station itself in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. This year plans were announced to turn this beautiful building into offices, which would make this one of the most impressive workplaces in London.
Opened in 1907 on the site of the old Royal Strand Theatre, Aldwych station served as an air raid shelter during the Blitz and closed in 1994. Now, it is used only for rare private functions and filming, having featured in Atonement, V for Vendetta and the TV series Sherlock. Members of the public can still gain access to the station thanks to intermittent tours run by the London Transport Museum. Proceed with caution however – rumour has it that the station is haunted by the ghost of a young actress still waiting for her curtain call.
1999’s Notting Hill was another romantic comedy about an Englishman hopelessly in love with an American woman from Richard Curtis. The setting was one of the stars of the film, showcasing iconic landmarks of west London. Portobello Road market gave birth to the famous ‘time passes’ scene and is a must for anyone stepping foot in London, native or tourist. Hop to the lavish Coronet cinema, where Hugh Grant’s William watched Julia Roberts’ Anna in Helix. The famous ‘blue door’ is at 280 Westbourne Park Road – the original has been auctioned off but the blue replacement allows for a decent photo opportunity.
St. Sepulchre’s Chapel
Frequently used in television and movies, inspiration for PD James’ novel ‘A Taste for Death’ and with links to Thomas Hardy who lived nearby and worked with the architect Blomfield, it is easy to see why St Mary Magdalene Church has inspired so many. The gothic architecture is romantically decorated in rich colors and opulent gold and the ceiling of St Sepulchre’s chapel mimics a night sky. Spot the chapel in The Oxford Murders (2008), Franklyn (2008) and perhaps most famously in Les Miserables (2012) – this is where Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean resolves to change his life.
If ever there was an excuse to indulge in an enormous fry-up, this London greasy spoon is it. Purely for the film history, of course – featured in Brighton Rock as well as Layer Cake, where the builders’ tea proved lethal, this down-to-earth yet stylish art deco cafe is extremely popular for weekend brunch. Yelp users voted this place the fifth best restaurant in Britain in 2013. Awaken your inner retro London gangster over a steaming cuppa.
Old Royal Naval College
Originally designed by Christopher Wren as a hospital for injured seamen, the Old Royal Naval College was built between 1696 and 1712 on the site of the old Palace of Palentia – birthplace of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary I. It is now a World Heritage Site and the magnificence of the buildings makes it easy to see why. The location is often used to convey a sense of grandeur and history, and takes centre stage in Gulliver’s Travels, Les Miserables, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Northern Lights and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Easily incorporated into a tour of central London, this is not one to skip.
A little further afield but worth the day trip, Hatfield House is a ‘Treasure House’, a group of the ten most impressive palaces and houses in England. Lived in by the Cecil family for 400 years, this Jacobean mansion is still home to the Marquess of Salisbury. On screen, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider lived here and the house was featured in Shakespeare in Love, Batman Begins and as spoilt brat Veruca Salt’s home in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. London-based film fans can reach the estate via a fast train from King’s Cross station in just 20 minutes.