There are a few Meccas for serious film fans, places you must visit at least once to soak in the history of cinema. Pinewood Studios looms large in that group; located a few miles outside of London Pinewood has been home to Batman and Superman, Muppets and monsters, Oscar winners and Razzie winners alike. And of course James Bond.
Bond was the reason I finally made my pilgrimage to Pinewood. I was there in the company of a handful of colleagues and Bond historian Dave Worrall, who took us on a guided tour of Pinewood, showing off the major Bond locations, as well as a couple of other points of interest, like the field where Tim Burton’s Gotham City once stood, or the building erected on the spot where Stanley Kubrick recreated New York City for his final film.
The tour began with lunch at the Oak Room, the snazzy restaurant on the grounds of Pinewood. Fans of the first Batman have seen the place – it’s where Harvey Dent has a fundraiser. We were joined by Quantum of Solace producer Anthony Waye, who gave us a behind the scenes look at the logistics of making a Bond film.
After that the tour began in earnest. We visited the Paddock Tank, where hundreds of films (including many, many Bond films) shot water scenes. Worrall pointed out little patches of grass alongside paths that live in Bond film infamy, including charming little spots that made up SPECTRE Island in From Russia With Love and Korean rock formations from Die Another Day. Worrall casually pointed out a spot of grass where Sean Connery and Honor Blackman once pretended to parachute out of the sky.
We continued on to Goldfinger Alley, and then hit our big destination, the 007 stage. The huge building has a dangerous history, having burned down twice in the last thirty years. Right now it’s housing an Arabic city set for Disney’s Prince of Persia, and they could probably build a big chunk of that town – the 007 Stage is gargantuan.
After that we made a quick stop at the Pinewood General Store (it’s mostly geared towards carpentry and painting supplies, but there were some souveniers to be had), and then on to a special exhibit that Pinewood has been putting on for the local townspeople. The studio wants to expand in a big way, building a series of permanent environments (like a college campus and a city street scene) as well as creating housing for filmmakers, who currently have to do a very long commute from London every day. But to get the expansion underway they have to convince the local towns to give them the okay; as part of this effort they’re busing in groups to take a look at some pieces of cinema history that were created at Pinewood.
And now, a two and a half minute tour of the exhibition!
Untitled from devincf on Vimeo.
It was an incredibly cool opportunity. From the Los Angeles lots to Berlin’s Babelsberg to the UK’s Shepperton and Pinewood, I’ve been able to visit many of the major studio facilities in the western world, and it never ceases to be a thrill. Getting behind the scenes doesn’t ruin the magic of the movies, it reinforces how amazing the entire filmmaking process is.