Filmmakers for the forthcoming Hollywood version of
Great Expectations used Kent to film key scenes for their movie.
Chris Price reports.
When the stars hit the red carpet for the premiere of Great
Expectations, they enthused about sinking their teeth into Charles
Dickens’ timeless roles.
“These Dickens characters, they’re so rich, and they’re always a
great challenge to actors,” said Ralph Feinnes, who plays Magwitch,
when the hotly-anticipated new film closed the 56th BFI London Film
“They’re so strong, definitive, they have a high definition
about them, they leave a lasting mark, whoever plays them, I think.
They’re so well constructed by Dickens that it’s a gift to play
them, to get the chance to interpret them.”
One of the other defining elements of Dickens’ writing is the
setting he describes, much of which has been famously set in Kent.
Having lived at Ordnance Terrace, Chatham, as a boy and then living
out his days in Higham at Gads Hill Place, Kent was always dear to
the Victorian author’s heart and he set the opening exchanges of
Great Expectations on the North Kent marshes.
Movie makers at BBC Films, who are behind the film, arrived at
Elmley Marshes on Sheppey last November to film some of the
“We were really excited. It’s a very quiet place so it was
unusual to have so much going on,” said assistant warden at Elmley,
Lyndsey (CORRECT) Record, who lives in Sittingbourne.
Warden at the RSPB reserve Gordon Allison was in charge of the
production team’s visit but he died in February, so his colleagues
are going to make sure they see the film in his honour.
“He really enjoyed them being here,” said Lyndsey. “It is a
difficult balance of letting them do what they want but also making
sure the wildlife is not disturbed but the film crew took
everything on board.
“It was very foggy and misty. It was perfect for their scenes.
They went to a few marshes to film and it will be good to try and
spot our one.”
Many of the stars of the film were on site. Ralph Feinnes even
helped one of the staff herd cattle through a gate.
“It was very busy on two or three days when they were doing the
filming,” said Lyndsey. “I went down with Gordon one evening when
they were filming and I saw David Walliams.”
Another setting for the film was Sir Thomas a Becket Church in
Fairfield on Romney Marsh, where Ralph Feinnes and Young Pip actor
Toby Irvine – the younger brother of Jeremy, who plays the grown up
Pip – filmed some of the tense opening scenes of director Mike
Shellness Beach on Sheppey was another location and the crew
also shot two scenes for the movie – also starring Helena Bonham
Carter, Jason Flemyng and Holliday Grainger – at Chatham’s Historic
Dockyard. One was a chase scene with the Young Pip running through
the cobbled streets around the Ropery complex, often used by
moviemakers to mimic the old streets of London.
The other scene involved ex-Cracker actor Robbie Coltrane. Shot
in one of the Hemp Houses of the Ropery complex, the film crew put
a carriage inside the room for a special effect scene, simulating
the carriage moving forwards with Robbie Coltrane inside.
“As often happens, they wanted to film as many
different scenes on location as possible to minimise cost,” said
the Dockyard’s filming manager Sam Cooper, who lives in Marden.
“They needed a room where they could fit their carriage prop so
they brought that along on the day they were filming the cobbled
streets to get the most out of their day.”
The film – which comes out officially on Friday, November 30 –
is the latest in a string of big name productions to arrive at the
Dockyard, including Hollywood flicks Sherlock Holmes and the
forthcoming Les Miserables movie, as well as the BBC drama Call The
“There are a lot of Dickens related connections in Medway so it
is good to see this movie using a bit of Medway,” said Sam.
“We have hosted lots of Dickens productions recently with the
bicentenary of his birth in 2012.”
Great Expectations is in cinemas now. For a review
of the film click here.
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