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Tuesday May 21st 2024

Mona Lisa | 1986

Mona Lisa location: St Peter's Italian Church, 138 Clerkenwell Road, Clerkenwell
Mona Lisa location: George catches up with the elusive Cathy: St Peter’s Italian Church, 138 Clerkenwell Road, Clerkenwell

Cabdriver George (Bob Hoskins) is hired to ferry high-class hooker Simone (Cathy Tyson) between assignations in a melancholically sleazy London.

Mona Lisa location: The Ritz, Piccadilly, W1
Mona Lisa location: Simone hangs out: The Ritz, Piccadilly, W1

Simone’s regular – and rather classy – haunts include the Ritz Hotel, 150 Piccadilly, W1, where movie star Julia Roberts stayed in Notting Hill.

And, at the other end of Mayfair’s Park Lane, the glamorous Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly, W1. Neil Jordan returns to the Park Lane’s gleaming deco splendour for The End of the Affair. The hotel also appears in the savage Gangster No.1, as a 'New York' hotel in Made Of Honor, as a restaurant and a beauty parlour in The Golden Compass, as an ocean liner in the 2008 film of Brideshead Revisited, and as the ‘Zig Zag Club’ in legendary Madonna-Sean Penn turkey, Shanghai Surprise.

It’s nearby, alongside the statue of Achilles at Hyde Park Corner (by the extraordinarily tacky Queen Elizabeth Gates) that George throws Simone out of the car after they row.

Mona Lisa location: Jolly St Ermin's Hotel, Caxton Street, Victoria, SW1
Mona Lisa location: George turns up in his new gear: the Jolly St Ermin’s Hotel, Caxton Street, Victoria, SW1

Simone also hangs out in Victoria, in the florid pink St Ermin’s Hotel, Caxton Street, SW1, where George turns up in the flash new gear appropriate to his new role as minder. The sinuously art nouveau interior of the St Ermin’s previously became an American restaurant in Warren Beatty’s Oscar-winning epic Reds in 1982; its ballroom was imaginatively transformed into the dining room of the ‘Savoy’, circa 1890, for Oliver Parker’s misguided 2002 opening-up of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and it’s on the roof of the hotel that Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen enjoy a spot of gunplay in Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy. A risky scene to shoot atop a building which overlooks – erm – New Scotland Yard, headquarters of the Metropolitan Police.

Simone’s search for her friend Cathy takes the pair to the King’s Cross area, and the strip- and peep-joints of Soho. Whenever the social problems of the King’s Cross area are discussed, there’s an inevitable reference to Mona Lisa and the hellish bridge where prostitutes ply their trade. In fact, the scene wasn’t filmed near King’s Cross at all, but on Pindar Street, a road bridge which once spanned the railway lines at the rear of Liverpool Street Station, demolished during the area’s substantial renovation.

Running alongside the eastern edge of the real King’s Cross Station, the brick arches of Pancras Road housed – until a couple of years ago – a series of junk shops and, at Arches 65, 67 and 69, just past Cheney Road, the now now-gone Railway Café, where George buys an ice cream sundae for the young hooker, May, who quickly does a runner before she can eat it.

Mona Lisa location: Vanbrugh Castle, 121 Maze Hill, Greenwich
Mona Lisa location: the grand ‘Highgate’ house: Vanbrugh Castle, 121 Maze Hill, Greenwich

Not far away, on the dusty, unlovely stretch of Gray’s Inn Road past St Andrew’s Gardens, is the striking, newly-restored, blue and white art deco apartment block Trinity Court, Grays Inn Road, which is home to Simone. Director Neil Jordan wanted the exterior to have “a kind of Middle European quality”, as well as a pair of parallel, open cage lifts, in order to stage the claustrophobic shootout with Anderson (Clarke Peters).

Mona Lisa location: Trinity Court, Gray's Inn Road, London WC1
Mona Lisa location: Simone’s apartment: Trinity Court, Gray's Inn Road, London WC1

The grand ‘Highgate’ house, though, where Simone sends out a tray of refreshments to George while she services a rich client, isn’t north London at all, but way southeast, south of the River Thames, in fact. It’s Vanbrugh Castle, 121 Maze Hill, the house of architect and dramatist Sir John Vanbrugh, east of Greenwich. Also way south is Crystal Palace Road, East Dulwich, where George briefly visits his wife and daughter.

The church to which George, following Anderson, eventually meets the elusive Cathy can be found in Clerkenwell. It’s St Peter’s Italian Church, 136 Clerkenwell Road, EC1. The elaborate and colourful church was built in 1863 for Italian immigrant workers and was, at that time, the only church in Britain in the Roman Basilican style – it’s modelled on San Crisogono in Trastevere, Rome.

Mona Lisa location: St Peter's Italian Church, 138 Clerkenwell Road, Clerkenwell
Mona Lisa location: George catches up with the elusive Cathy: St Peter’s Italian Church, 138 Clerkenwell Road, Clerkenwell

St Peter’s seems a little coy about its appearance in the film, perhaps due to the content. The front is barely glimpsed, as George enters through the unremarkable side entrance on Back Hill.

By the way, a few yards away at the foot of Back Hill you'll find the Coach and Horses, the London pub in which Tom Cruise stops for a quick pint in 2014 sci-fi Edge Of Tomorrow (Live Die Repeat).

Mona Lisa location: St Peter's Italian Church, 138 Clerkenwell Road, Clerkenwell
Mona Lisa location: Mortwell’s strip club: the old Raymond Revuebar, Walker’s Court, Soho

Mortwell (Michael Caine) issues his orders from what was the old strip club Raymond Revuebar, now cabaret nightclub The Box, 11 Walkers Court at Brewer Street, in the heart of Soho. It’s just around the corner from Madame Jojo’s, seen in Eyes Wide Shut.

The film ends up on the coast in Brighton, where there’s trouble from the heavies on Brighton Pier, and a bloody shoot-out in the Royal Albion Hotel, 35 Old Steine.