Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone) | 2001
- DIRECTOR |
- Chris Columbus
The first of the Harry Potter saga is filmed on locations all over England, setting the tone as a terrific kids’ movie, studded with enough scene-stealing Brit character actors to keep the grown-ups entertained.
It pieces together disparate sites across the length and breadth of the UK. For instance, although the elaborate exterior of ‘Hogwarts School’ is largely computer generated, scenes inside the school were filmed in at least six different locations, ranging from County Durham in the north of England to Wiltshire in the west.
We start out in Berkshire, where the house of the dreadful Dursleys, at ‘4 Privet Drive’, is 12 Picket Post Close, Martins Heron, (rail: Martins Heron, from London Waterloo), one rail stop away from Bracknell. As ever, do remember that this is a private home.
In London, it’s at the Reptile House at London Zoo, in Regent's Park, London NW1, that Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) learns he can speak to snakes and liberates the boa constrictor (though what kind of life a boa constrictor can expect in Regent’s Park is anybody’s guess).
A long-established film location, London Zoo can be seen in Carol Reed’s The Fallen Idol, The Jokers, Arabesque, Turtle Diary and An American Werewolf in London. The famous Penguin Pool can be seen in About a Boy, and its little-known Prince Albert Suite in British comedy Leon The Pig Farmer. The zoo’s entrance, on the Outer Circle, was transformed – with a little CGI – into the exterior of the ‘All England Lawn Tennis Club’ for 2004 rom-com Wimbledon.
The entrance to ‘The Leaky Cauldron’ was an empty shop, now an optician store – The Glass House, 42 Bull’s Head Passage in Leadenhall Market in the City of London (it’s just beneath the famous Lloyd’s Building).
The market itself has been a frequent film location. Within the market, The Lamb pub was the site of the raucous brawl in John Wayne's only English movie, Brannigan. More recently, Angelina Jolie zoomed through the arcade on her motorbike in Lara Croft – Tomb Raider, while Russell Crowe enjoyed a Chinese meal here in Proof of Life.
The crazily angled exterior of ‘Gringott’s Bank’ is obviously a set, but the interior is the imposing Exhibition Hall of Australia House, the Strand WC2, with its chandeliers and Australian marble columns. Find it at the eastern end of the traffic island, where Aldwych meets the Strand, but unfortunately, you’ll have to be satisfied with the exterior – it’s not open to the public.
The Hogwarts Express supposedly departs from ‘Platform 9 3/4‘ of King’s Cross Station. The magical entrance is actually the arched wall between Platforms 4 and 5. Don't go running into those bricks. Trust me, it doesn't work.
And it’s a little more difficult to try now, though. Since the major revamp of the station, which saw the addition of the huge western concourse, you can no longer wander onto the platforms at will. You need to be a traveller with a valid ticket.
As a concession, if you head towards the entrance to Platforms 9, 10 and 11 in the new concourse, you’ll find not only the Harry Potter shop, but the chance for that unmissable photo-op with a luggage trolley disappearing into the wall marked ‘Platform 9 3/4’. Go on, you know you want to.
North to North Yorkshire, where ‘Hogsmeade Station’ is Goathland Station on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a few miles southwest of the coastal resort of Whitby in North Yorkshire. Dating from 1865, the station served for just 100 years until it closed in 1965. In 1968, Goathland became the headquarters of the fledgling North Yorkshire Moors Railway, opening to passengers again in 1973.
And this is where it starts to get complicated.
‘Hogwarts’ itself is a dizzying assembly of different locations. The richly-vaulted cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester, down in the southwest of England, became the corridors leading to ‘Gryffindor House’, where the lady in the oil painting asks for the password.
The cloisters of Durham Cathedral, in the northeast, became the snowy quadrangle of ‘Hogwarts’, where Harry sets the owl flying. The nave of Durham Cathedral, incidentally, also became the ‘Palace of Whitehall’ in Shekhar Kapur’s epic Elizabeth, with Cate Blanchett.
The Sacristy became Professor Snape’s (Alan Rickman) Potions Class: “How to bottle fame, brew glory and even put a stopper in death”.
The Warming Room – which really does contain a genuine cauldron – is Professor Quirrell’s (Ian Hart) Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, and it’s in the Chapter House that Harry stumbles upon the miraculous ‘Mirror of Erised’.
The house was home of the Talbot family, including the famous pioneer of photography Henry Fox Talbot. In fact, the oldest photographic negative in existence is a picture of the latticed window in Lacock Abbey, taken in 1835. You can see the very window if you tour the house, which houses the Fox Talbot Museum, dedicated to the work of the inventor.
The house, and the Medieval cloisters seen in the movie, is open daily (except Tuesday) from the beginning of April to the end of October. You can see it also in The Other Boleyn Girl and 1958 Civil War melodrama The Moonraker.
The Outer Bailey of Alnwick Castle, Northumberland is the site of Madame Hooch’s flying lesson. Alnwick is also featured in Shekhar Kapur’s historical epic Elizabeth, with Cate Blanchett, 1971 drama Mary, Queen Of Scots, glimpsed briefly in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, with Kevin Costner, and was the backdrop for Disney fantasy The Spaceman and King Arthur.
Professor Flitwick’s (Warwick Davis) Charms Class, where Hermione (Emma Watson) manages to levitate a feather: “Wingardium Leviosa!”, is the Fourth Form Room of Harrow Old Schools, Harrow-on-the-Hill in Greater London. Founded in 1572 under a Royal Charter granted by Elizabeth I, Harrow remains one of the country’s most prestigious schools – old boys include a clutch of Prime Ministers, writers as diverse as Lord Byron, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Anthony Trollope – and screenwriter Richard Curtis (Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill...). Coincidentally, another Old Harrovian was the same photographic pioneer Henry Fox Talbot, who lived at Lacock Abbey.
The venerable Bodleian Library of Oxford University supplies two locations: Duke Humphrey’s Library is where Harry tries to find out about Nicholas Flamel; and the elaborately fan-vaulted Divinity School became Hogwarts School’s hospital. The same location served as the lobby of the ‘House of Commons’ in The Madness of King George.
And finally, of course, you can now take the Warner Bros Studio Tour, of the Leavesden studio, 20 miles north-west of London. The studio began life as Leavesden Aerodrome, a factory and runway where Mosquitos and Halifax Bombers were manufactured. The disused facility was used as a studio to film the first Pierce Brosnan Bond movie, GoldenEye, in 1994 (the huge ‘St Petersburg’ set was built here to accommodate the tank chase).
Parts of George Lucas’s The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were subsequently filmed here, but it was the Harry Potter films that really put the studio on the map. In the end, the series was based at Leavesden for over ten years, so there’s plenty to see. The tour features sets – including Hogwarts’ Great Hall, one of the only sets to be used in all eight films, and Diagon Alley – as well as costumes and props.