South East England

The Secret Circle

by Tim Grierson

British location manager Andrew Buckley has to be tight-lipped about the plotline of high-octane sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle, starring Taron Egerton and Colin Firth, but he can reveal that finding the right locations was absolutely crucial. “To double certain [US] elements here in the UK was a really big challenge,” he reveals. “The briefs we got said, ‘Ideally, it has to be within spitting distance of London.’ So we had scouts [in south-east England] looking for the rolling countryside of Kentucky.”

The UK has a first-class track record for doubling for the US: Liverpool for New York in Florence Foster Jenkins, Glasgow for Philadelphia in World War Z and Essex even served as the location of the white house in Philomena. The Kingsman team managed to find worthy locations in the Chiltern Hills and South Downs of southern England that not only doubled for the US but were also used for a sequence set in Italy.

Targeted online research helped when looking for locations. “We have a formula,” says Buckley, who has been a location manager for six years and worked on Matthew Vaughn’s 2014 original Kingsman: The Secret Service. “Google is our friend. With Google Earth, there’s a skill in actually typing in what you want to search for. When you finally get it, you go, ‘Wow.’” The additional challenge is finding truly unexplored terrain, especially in an area as popular with filmmakers as London and south-east England. “Every scout is trying to find a location that’s never been filmed before,” Buckley admits. “It’s nice when you come across a location where they haven’t had filming and they’re really excited about the whole process.”

Thankfully the depth and diversity of England’s locations provided everything the production needed, and Buckley says he is especially proud of one Golden Circle setpiece – although he has been sworn to secrecy. “It was a specific location the director wanted, and there was a big search. Again, Google being our friend, we managed to find out where it was and contacted them direct.

“It’s always good to meet the location owners face-to-face and reassure them about what we’re going to do. They hadn’t had filming there before, so it was a challenge because they didn’t know what to expect. It is your team’s job to reassure them, and they were excited. We made it work and it was such an enjoyable experience for the crew, myself and my team — and for the location.” Building trust with location owners is something Buckley takes very seriously. “We’re the fi rst to make contact for the fi lm, and we’re the last that they see. We have to be conscious that other location managers would want to fi lm there.” Buckley laughs. “You don’t want to be the person that cocked it up for everybody!”

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