Paddington | 2014
Against all expectations, the live action adventures of Michael Bond’s much-loved bear is surprisingly witty and imaginative.
The opening scenes of the bear’s discovery in darkest ‘Peru’ were filmed in Costa Rica.
Leaving South America to find a better life in the fabled city of London, the little bear stows away on a ship to arrive at Tilbury Docks docks in Essex. The famous port has been seen in Bill Condon's Mr Holmes, Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, and Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.
A convenient truck unwittingly ferries him into the capital, inevitably crossing Tower Bridge en route, before dropping him off at one of the capital’s major rail termini.
It is, of course, Paddington Station, where the bear is given his new name and somewhat reluctantly taken in by the Brown family. Or so you’d think. Although the station platforms are the real deal, Paddington Station doesn’t have much of a frontage, so the establishing shot is of the entrance to nearby Marylebone Station, Melcombe Place.
The small and comparatively quiet Marylebone has appeared frequently on screen – most famously over 50 years ago in the Beatles’ first feature A Hard Day’s Night.
Once inside the station, that really is Paddington, although the charmingly old-fashioned tea room, with its chalk-board menus, is nothing more than a fantasy created for the film – in fact, there’s a McDonalds just alongside, which obviously had to be disguised.
Beneath the clock there's no tea room nor a lost property office, just an exit to the taxi rank – but there is a bronze statue of the little bear.
The taxi ride from Paddington Station to the home of the Brown family manages to pass most of the capital's tourist sites (St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge...) and also introduces the calypso band who act as a chorus throughout the film, performing Lord Kitchener's London Is The Place For Me beneath the elaborate portico of the Floral Hall on Stoney Street, in the heart of Borough Market, London SE1 – close to the screen home of Bridget in Bridget Jones's Diary.
It’s implied that the Browns live in Notting Hill, but their pleasant home, on ‘Windsor Gardens’ is in an even posher area. It’s 30 Chalcot Crescent, Primrose Hill, NW1, just north of Regent’s Park.
The Browns decide to take the new arrival along to Mr Gruber (Jim Broadbent) who owns an antique shop on Portobello Road in – where else? – Notting Hill, to see if Paddington’s red hat can give a clue to his origins.
The Browns' local ‘Westbourne Oak Station’ is completely fictitious and the film makes use of now fewer than three underground stations.
The handsome exterior is the brown-tiled Maida Vale Station, on the corner of Elgin Avenue and Randolph Avenue, Maida Vale, W9. The photogenic Bakerloo Line station, which dates from 1915, also features in Richard Curtis’s About Time and Neil Jordan’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s The End Of The Affair.
The escalators, with those elegant uplighters, are those of St John's Wood Station, not too far away but on the Jubilee Line.
The station itself is the disused Jubilee Line section of Charing Cross Underground Station. As you might notice, Charing Cross is not on the Jubilee Line but, until 1999, it was the line's southern terminus.
With the development of Docklands, the line's proposed route was changed to run south from Green Park and the Charing Cross platforms were closed.
They still exist and are maintained, though they're off-limits to the public (except for special tours) and are used to try out new design ideas, to audition licensed buskers and – importantly – as a film location, seen in Skyfall, The Bourne Ultimatum and Creep.
‘Gruber’s’ antique shop is Alice’s Antiques, 86 Portobello Road, at Denbigh Close, W11. It’s a longstanding institution of the famous street market. Alongside it, on Denbigh Close itself, you can see the flat belonging to Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) from The Italian Job.
Attempting to return a lost wallet, Paddington skateboards through Portobello Road Market, before becoming airborne and flying over the Prince Alfred, 5a Formosa Street, Maida Vale W9. A real treat, all carved wood and etched glass, this traditional old pub is seen onscreen in King Ralph, with John Goodman as the unorthodox monarch, Neil Jordan’s Graham Greene adaptation The End Of The Affair, Michael Radford’s B Monkey and Chen Kaige’s Killing Me Softly.
The hat leads them on to the ‘Geographers’ Guild’, which is one of the West End’s famed gentlemen’s clubs. It’s the Reform Club, 104 Pall Mall, a movie staple seen in Guy Ritchie’s revamp of Sherlock Holmes, the 2001 remake of The Four Feathers with Heath Ledger, the 1998 big screen version of TV series The Avengers, as well as two Bond films – Die Another Day and Quantum Of Solace.
The hallway, with it’s striking tiled floor, is the club, but the inner corridors, where Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville) is obliged to pass himself off as a cleaning lady, are those of Hatfield House, Hatfield, north of London in Hertfordshire.
On the trail of Paddington, with more sinister motives, is evil taxidermist Millicent Clyde (Nicole Kidman), whose home is 52 Downshire Hill, Hampstead, NW3. It’s just around the corner from the police station where Kevin Sheperd (Ioan Gruffudd) is held in another children’s classic, 102 Dalmatians.
Millicent works in the Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7, previously seen in excellent 1950 thriller Seven Days To Noon, Greystoke, The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes and two barkingly daft outings – kitsch classic Basic Instinct II and the Wachowskis' Jupiter Ascending.
Don’t worry – the chances of this respected British institution giving house room to a rogue taxidermist bent on stuffing endangered species is about as likely as a Peruvian spectacled bear being able to speak perfect English.