Sexy Beast | 2000
After directing music videos and high-profile commercials for companies such as Levi's and Guinness (he was responsible for the white horses galloping through surf), Jonathan Glazer burst onto the big screen with a boldly surreal caper movie, based on a brilliant expletive laden script by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, and boasting an electrifying, Oscar-nominated performance from Ben Kingsley as psychotic, bullet-headed gangster Don Logan.
Not a box-office blockbuster on release, the film nevertheless went on in 2004 to be named the 15th greatest British film of all time by UK magazine Total Film.
The much-feared Logan visits one-time safecracker Gary ‘Gal’ Dove (Ray Winstone), relaxing in sunny retirement in southern Spain, intent on enticing him back to the UK to join a team for one more job.
Gal’s luxury villa stands at the end of Calle Ferrocarril Minero, on the east side of the village of Agua Amarga, on the coast a couple of miles south of Carboneras, in Almeria. Don’t worry – it’s not usually plagued by tumbling boulders.
The frisky party is held not in a grand Highgate home, but in the luxurious surroundings of one-time stately home Luton Hoo, Hotel, Golf and Spa, near Luton, north of London in Bedfordshire. Before being transformed into a hotel, Luton Hoo was a screen regular – hosting a more formal party in Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut, one of the receptions in Nineties rom-com Four Weddings And A Funeral and even becoming a French chateau for 1964 Pink Panther sequel, A Shot In The Dark.
Gal resists Logan’s cajoling, wheedling and threats but is eventually obliged to return to glum, grey old England.
Not that he’s exactly slumming it in London’s meaner streets. Gal stays at Mayfair’s Grosvenor House Hotel, on swanky Park Lane, under the arcane alias ‘Rowntree’ – “Like Smarties, like Shaft…” (confectioners Rowntrees are the makers of Smarties, and Richard Roundtree, of course, played Shaft).
The entrance seen in the film is not the Park Lane frontage, but the rear garage entrance on Park Street opposite Reeves Mews. It’s in the hotel’s dining room – which does look out onto Park Lane – that he’s momentarily disconcerted by the appearance of a gun-toting cousin of Donnie Darko’s Frank the Rabbit during breakfast.
The target of the robbery, Harry’s maximum security bank, is the Vernon Place entrance to Victoria House, near Holborn. This is the side entrance to the impressive Grade II listed building, built in the 1920s for the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society. The interior of Victoria House was featured in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, and more recently as a ‘Moscow’ hotel in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
The gang tunnels in from an adjoining steam bath, but don’t expect to find a relaxing spa around the corner on Southampton Row – the sign was simply added for the film’s plot, and the baths filmed on a studio set.
The Chinese restaurant with the stylish black and gold interior, from which Gal phones his wife Deedee (Amanda Redman) back in Spain, is for real, though. It’s the Royal China, 13 Queensway, a few doors away from Queensway tube station in busy Bayswater W2. The restaurant has had a little bit of a makeover since filming, but retains the classy lacquered look.
Harry’s luxurious home, at which he’s visited in the small hours by Teddy and Gal, is Clock House, 3 Rutland Mews West, South Kensington SW7. Much of the house’s ornamental style dates from the early 1960s when the house was remodelled for Sir Henry Aylwen, the former Lord Mayor of London. It stands directly opposite Rutland Mews, featured in both 50s classic Genevieve and 60s drama The Killing Of Sister George.
Gal is ultimately rewarded with the princely sum of £10 for his efforts before being dropped off by Teddy Bass at the bus stop at Royal Oak, on Harrow Road W2, beneath the constant rumble of Westway.