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Wednesday March 22nd 2023

Wimbledon | 2004

Wimbledon film location: London Zoo, Regent's Park, London NW1
Wimbledon film location: the entrance to Wimbledon: London Zoo, Regent's Park, London NW1

England wins Wimbledon – yes, of course it’s a work of fiction, with about-to-retire tennis ace Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) inspired to one last victory by love of ambitious American newcomer Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst).

The film opens with Colt contemplating the end of his playing career at the Monte Carlo Country Club (MCCC), home of the Monte-Carlo Masters, which is actually just outside Monaco, in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France.

Goldfinger location: Stoke Park House, Stoke Poges, Slough, Buckinghamshire
Goldfinger location: Bond plays Goldfinger at golf: Stoke Park House, Stoke Poges, Slough, Buckinghamshire

The posh private club, where Frazier (Robert Lindsay) offers Colt the post of ‘Tennis Director’, is Stoke Park Club, Park Road, Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire. It has a sporty history – it was here that James Bond played a round of golf with his devious adversary in Goldfinger, became the interior of the ‘Hamburg’ hotel in another Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, and it’s where Bridget spent a naughty weekend with Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Peter Colt lives with his family in the slightly blowsy south coast resort of Brighton – setting for the mod-rocker rucks in Quadrophenia – though Darius Khondji’s photography gives the town a more romantic glow than it usually gets onscreen.

Despite the sea view (that was added digitally), the quirky Arts & Crafts style home of the Colts is firmly landlocked in the Surrey countryside. Southwest of Guildford, it’s Norney Grange, Elstead Road, in the village of Shackleford. Designed by noted architect Charles Voysey in 1897, it’s a private Grade II-listed house, sadly not visible from the road. Incidentally, Norney’s Lodge was used as the home of CS Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) in Richard Attenborough’s 1993 film of Shadowlands.

Wimbledon film location: Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1
Wimbledon film location: the players’s hotel in central London: Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1

In London for the Wimbledon tournament, Colt stays at the 1930s art deco Dorchester Hotel, 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, W1, which is where he meets up with Lizzie.

Built on the site of the palatial old Dorchester House, the hotel opened in 1931 as the last word in stylish modernity and its Park Lane balconies boast, as you can see, impressive views over Hyde Park.

Less stuffy old-school than other great London hotels, its extravagant suites were created by stage designer Oliver Messel, and the Dorchester has always been a favourite with the theatrical crowd – Alfred Hitchcock stayed here, as did Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton held legendary parties here, and Peter Sellers made it his London base.

Onscreen, it was home to villain John Vernon in John Wayne’s only British film, Brannigan; Bongo Herbert (Cliff Richard) stays here in 1959 pop music satire Expresso Bongo;  and it features in Louis Malle’s Damage; Karel Reisz’s Morgan – A Suitable Case for Treatment; and Woody Allen’s Scoop.

But onto the tennis matches, which really are filmed at the All England Club, Wimbledon, London SW19.

One of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, along with the Australian Open, the French Open and the US Open, the championship has been played here since 1877.

The stars of the film made their entrances and exits in front of crowds gathered to watch real matches in 2003. The playing looks pretty impressive, though the balls are computer generated.

If you’re a regular at the tennis tournaments, you’ll be a bit confused by the look of the gate to the courts. It seems that Wimbledon’s exterior was just not photogenic enough for the big screen. The entrance seen in the movie is actually that of ZSL London Zoo on the Outer Circle, Regent’s Park, way across town in north London.

Wimbledon film location: Italian Gardens, Hyde Park, London
Wimbledon film location: Peter and Lizzie walk among the fountains: Italian Gardens, Hyde Park, London

After an initial tryst over a fish and chip supper, Peter and Lizzie enjoy sushi at the Chelsea branch of Japanese restaurant chain Itsu, 118 Draycott Avenue, Chelsea, SW3. Afterwards, they stroll through the Queen’s Gate on High Street Kensington  into Hyde Park, and linger by the fountains of the Italian Garden, at the opposite end of the park off Bayswater Road.

Wimbledon film location: London Eye, South Bank, London
Wimbledon film location: Peter Colt lands a punch on his brattish rival: London Eye, South Bank, London

Colt is goaded into punching out the lights of brattish young rival Jake Hammond (Austin Nichols)  in one of the pods of the London Eye on the South Bank between Westminster and Hungerford Bridges.

Built for the millennium, the Eye has proved a runaway success, quickly establishing itself as one of the defining images of the city, seen in Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse; 4: The Rise of the Silver Surfer; and Thunderbirds. You’ll need to book ahead – those queues can be long.

Peter and Lizzie make a hasty exit to the car, parked – not entirely legally – alongside the South Bank Lion at the foot of Westminster Bridge. It’s beneath this lion, incidentally, that you’ll find the ‘secret entrance’ to MI6’s ‘Vauxhall Cross’ HQ in Die Another Day.

Enjoying a break in Brighton, Peter and Lizzie discuss parents over a meal in the, now closed, Terraces Bar and Grill, The Terraces, Madeira Drive, on the seafront looking out over the famous Brighton Pier.

Back in London, the house, in which Lizzie’s protective father (Sam Neill) vainly attempts to hide her away from temptation, is supposedly ’32 Kensington Place’, which would be in Notting Hill. The actual house, where Peter Colt climbs in through the bedroom window, is nearer to the Dorchester in the slightly classier Mayfair, at 25 Charles Street, at Waverton Street, W1.

About to leave for the USA, the sight of the Wimbledon final on TV screens around Heathrow Airport soon has Lizzie scooting back to SW19 in time for the final victorious set.