Bear Necessities

by Louise Tutt

Paddington 2 is a love letter to London,” says the film’s executive producer Rosie Alison of Heyday Films. The sequel to the 2014 box-office hit, directed again by Paul King, shot in and around the capital for nearly 13 weeks from October 2016 to January 2017. It is produced by David Heyman at Heyday Films and fully financed by Studiocanal. Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville star as Mr and Mrs Brown, with Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson joining the cast.

Around half of the shooting time was on stages at Pinewood and Warner Bros Studios Leavesden, with the rest entirely on the streets, and in the iconic buildings, of the capital. The main exterior location was the pretty pastel corner of Primrose Hill in north London used in the first film. The Victorian houses of Chalcot Crescent and Chalcot Square again stood in for Windsor Gardens and the neighbourhood where Paddington lives with the Brown family.

“It was wonderful to be able to shoot Windsor Gardens in a real London setting,” says Alison. “We did consider recreating it on a stage but there’s something just so wonderful about the real place that we know it wouldn’t have looked so good.”

The production spent two weeks in Chalcot Crescent and, although the residents generally knew what to expect, the filmmaking team, led by location manager Jonah Coombes (who had also worked on the first film), spent a lot of time preparing them, as well as talking to Camden Council about closing roads and parking permits.

“There was quite a lot of advance preparation,” says Alison. “We gave a talk at a local pub with a screen show, showing people what was going to be done, and we tried to give people as much notice as possible. We had to change the colour of some of the buildings so the location manager had to spend a long time persuading some of the residents to have their houses painted and then painted back again.”

The road was never shut completely, with small sections cornered off when needed, and contributions by the production to local organisations also helped to ensure good community relations. “We organised a big donation to the residents’ association and to [arts venue] the Roundhouse nearby,” says Alison.

Transport hub

The production also filmed locally at Portobello Road and in Little Venice. Further afield, it took in landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, the Serpentine and, of course, Paddington Station. “That is never straightforward,” says Alison of shooting at a major metropolitan transport hub. “We had to book a time to get a platform free and move trains on and off it.”

Location manager Coombes worked with all the relevant authorities, including Network Rail, to secure a slot on a late Saturday evening and early Sunday morning. Working with child actors meant some shots had to be grabbed earlier. “We had various shots around the station earlier in the evening as the two children had to be there earlier,” says Alison. “Then we shot through until three or four in the morning.”

The sheer variety of versatile locations in London meant the production could swiftly overcome any challenges. “We were going to film around Parliament and Big Ben but it proved a bit too complicated, so we shifted that scene to Tower Bridge,” says Alison. “We were lucky to be able to find another iconic London location nearby that didn’t involve so many complicated logistics.”

Shooting in the famous Whispering Gallery at St Paul’s Cathedral also proved to be a delight. “We had cameras high up so there was a lot of safety measures to make sure nothing got dropped. It’s such a big, open space that it was quite easy to manoeuvre around.” And Alison believes the compassionate nature of the first Paddington meant there was plenty of goodwill towards the production from cathedral authorities. “They opened themselves up to us and were incredibly helpful,” she explains. “They closed the cathedral and we had a full day there, shooting a scene with Hugh Grant. It’s such an amazing place to film, it’s awe-inspiring. When you make locations work, it is fantastic”.

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