The Movie Location
When choosing the setting for this new romantic comedy, writer Richard Curtis looked no further than his own doorstep
When choosing the setting for this new romantic
comedy, writer Richard Curtis looked no further than his own doorstep.
As a resident of Notting Hill, he thought this vibrant
West London suburb an ideal backdrop to his story set against
London of the nineties.
"Notting Hill," Curtis says, "is an extraordinary
mixture of cultures. It is rich and poor and Portuguese and Jamaican
and English, and it seemed like a proper and realistic place where
two people from different worlds could actually meet and co-exist.
That Anna would be shopping there, that William would live there
and that Spike might think it was a groovy place to dwell. Notting
Hill is a melting pot and the perfect place to set a film."
Dominating Notting Hill is Portobello Road, one of London's
most famous streets and a unique tourist attraction. Essentially
a Victorian Street, Portobello Road is shown on a map of 1841
as Porto Bello Lane. The road grew piecemeal between the big estates
of Notting Hill and Paddington in London's great period of residential
expansion in the second half of the nineteenth century. Its shops
and markets served the large houses on the estates providing goods
and services for the working people who lived in the surrounding
Like Portobello Road, Notting Hill has a past as fascinating
as its present. A growing immigrant population, the race riots
of the 1950's, the early market traders, the antique and flea
markets, and most of all the annual Notting Hill Carnival which
began in 1965 as a street party with a small procession through
the streets of Notting Hill, and has now grown into an international
event with over two million people attending the three day celebration,
give Notting Hill a unique profile.
Although excited by the locale of the film, the producers were
presented with the challenge of filming in such a heavily populated
"Early on," recalls Kenworthy, "we toyed with the
idea of building a huge exterior set. That way we would have more
control, because we were worried about having Roberts and Grant
on public streets where we could get thousands of onlookers--and
obviously the police would have something to say about that. But
in the end we decided to take the risk and go for the real thing.
You can't create that sort of reality on a studio back lot. To
film in the real streets gives a fantastic tone to the film."
Heading the creative design team with a brief to exaggerate the
contrasts of Notting Hill, was three-time Academy Award-winning
production designer Stuart Craig.
Says Craig, "I've spent most of my film career in the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries, so to do a contemporary film was very
appealing. I have always made it a rule to choose not the design
challenge but the quality of the script. This was a particularly
good script and a very attractive proposition. I think you are
presented with more problems working on this kind of location.
So many films I have done take place at stately homes where we
deal with one person or one management and it's comparatively
straightforward. In this case we're dealing with streets with
thousands of people, market traders, shop owners and residents
which makes it really complex."
The challenge of filming on the streets of Notting Hill was echoed
by Michell; "My big anxiety was that Hugh and Julia were
going to turn up on the first day of shooting on Portobello Road,
and there w
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