Guardians Of The Galaxy | 2014
- DIRECTOR |
- James Gunn
James Gunn scores a real hit with audiences and critics alike with this unlikely offshoot from the Marvel universe, which was based in the UK and filmed largely on spectacular sets built at Shepperton Studios near Shepperton, southwest of London in Surrey (there are no studio tours or visits).
The largest of the sets was ‘the Kyln’ – the space prison where Quill, Rocket, Gamora, Groot and Drax are first lumped together, before joining forces to become the Guardians. The 360-degree set was built on three levels, incorporating 100 tons of steel, and later repurposed several times, including becoming the Collector’s (Benicio Del Toro) museum of extraordinary things.
The set for the planet of Xandar was just the basis for a gigantic virtual environment, inspired by the work of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, particularly the monumental steel, glass and white concrete Liège-Guillemins Railway Station in Liège, Belgium. Calatrava, by the way, also designed the flamboyant Quadracci Pavilion of Milwaukee Art Museum, which was used as Dylan Gould's automobile art gallery in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon.
But these sets and digital images still benefit from being grounded in a solidly believable world. As the Dark Aster warship of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) threatens to crash to the surface of Xandar, panicked crowds flee along the elevated walkway, which Londoners might well recognise as the Millennium Footbridge, crossing the Thames to link South Bank attractions such as Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe with St Paul’s Cathedral and the City.
Dubbed the ‘Wobbly Bridge’ when it first opened in 2000, due to its tendency to sway unnervingly, it was quickly closed down by the killjoys of health and safety until it could be stabilised. The bridge has had a hard time on screen – remember it being destroyed by Death Eaters in Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince?
More of the alien city is provided by the polished metal exterior staircases of the Lloyd’s Building, 1 Lime Street, EC3, headquarters of the insurance company in the City of London.
Famously built ‘inside out’, the interior is left clear and uncluttered while all its services – the lifts, power cables and plumbing are on the outside. You can see the unmistakable landmark tower on screen in 1998’s The Avengers (that’s the big-screen version of the 60s cult TV series, not the Marvel epic), Mike Leigh’s High Hopes, Taylor Hackford’s Proof Of Life and Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London. More surprisingly, the iconic building is used as both a ‘New York’ hi-rise and the entrance to the ‘Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur’ in Entrapment, as the ‘US Embassy, Hong Kong’ in Tony Scott’s Spy Game, and as the interior of the 'New York' company HQ in Iain Softley's 1995 Hackers, with Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie.
Shockingly modern when it was built way back in 1986, the Lloyd’s Building now looks almost classical alongside the explosion of attention-grabbing novelties – the Gherkin, the Shard, the Cheese Grater and the Walkie Talkie – since added to the London skyline.
There are also a couple of places on the outskirts of the capital.
The hospital, in which young Peter Quinn bids goodbye to his dying mother before being whisked off to a new life in space, is Hemel Hempstead Hospital, Hillfield Road, Hemel Hempstead, northwest of London in Hertfordshire.
And down in Surrey, the rolling green fields, where Yondu (Michael Rooker) lets loose sound-controlled arrows after his craft is shot down, are Tilsey Farm, Horsham Road, Bramley, near Guildford, about 12 miles south of the studios.