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Friday March 1st 2024

Spy Game | 2001

Spy Game filming location: Senate House, University of London, Malet Street
Spy Game location: the corridors of the CIA HQ in ‘Langley, Virginia’: Senate House, University of London, Malet Street

Tony Scott’s typically energetic thriller seems to bounce around the globe but, although there are some far-flung locations, a surprising lot of it is simply an imaginative use of London and its environs.

Take the ‘Chinese’ prison at ‘Su Chou’ where agent Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is held. It’s Oxford Gaol, previously seen in A Fish Called Wanda and Wilde.

Spy Game filming location: Lloyds Building, City of London
Spy Game location: the exterior of the ‘Hong Kong’ office: Lloyds Building, City of London

The ‘US Embassy’ in Hong Kong, where Harry Duncan (David Hemmings) is phoned by Muir, is the HQ of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, but after a quick establishing shot, a crafty edit cuts to the Lloyd’s Building, Leadenhall in 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 interior of the 'New York' company HQ in Iain Softley's 1995 Hackers, with Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie and even as the alien city threatened by the Dark Aster warship in Guardians Of The Galaxy.

After receiving a phone call, Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) is soon roaring through ‘Washington DC’. There’s a quick glimpse of the US capital, to sell us the location, but the street Muir drives along is Nash Terrace, NW1, running along the east edge of Regent’s Park, where the direction of traffic lanes had to be temporarily reversed for filming.

The first view of CIA HQ in ‘Langley, Virginia’ is the real thing, but as Muir arrives, it’s through the gates of the Glaxo Smith Klein factory on Gunnels Wood Road in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, he enters. The complex is just opposite the entrance to the famous Knebworth House, seen as 'Wayne Manor' in Tim Burton's1989 Batman, among many other screen appearances.

The lobby is the severe deco interior of Senate House, the University of London Union, Malet Street, which was previously seen as the US in Tony Scott’s earlier The Hunger. The adaptable location also became the king’s HQ in Richard III and the courts of ‘Gotham City’ in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The offices of the CIA were built in the studio at Shepperton.

Morocco provided two rather more exotic locations, which just couldn’t be faked in London. The seemingly lush jungle of ‘Vietnam’ is the oasis at Fint, west of Ouarzazate; and ‘Beirut’ is Casablanca.

Budapest, Hungary, supplies the street views of ‘Berlin’, though it’s back to the UK for ‘East Berlin’s Eck Bar’, where Bishop stops off to contact Muir: “Vodka did me in – I’m coming home.” as he attempts to get Schmidt across the border. This is the bar of the Rivoli Ballroom, 350 Brockley Road, opposite Crofton Park Railway Station, south London. The ballroom itself can be seen as the 40s dancehall where Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) dances with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, as the Krays' 'Esmeralda's Barn' nightclub in Brian Helgeland's Legend, with Tom Hardy as both Ron and Reggie, and is featured in My Week With Marilyn, in David Kane’s underrated 1999 rom-com This Year’s Love and in the David A Stewart turkey Honest.