Published: 10:00, 09 April 2021
| Updated: 12:28, 15 April 2021
Sheppey's Kingsferry Bridge stars in ITV's new psychological drama mini-series Too Close.
Viewers will see it on screen for 1min 40 seconds during the opening credits on Monday night at 9pm which doesn't seem a lot considering the distinctive "four-poster" lift-bridge was closed to traffic and trains for two whole weekends before Christmas.
But the show's producer Letitia Knight promised: "Just wait until you see episode three. It will really blow your mind." That will be shown on Wednesday, also at 9pm.
The programme features award-winning actress Emily Watson as forensic psychiatrist Dr Emma Robertson assigned to work with Connie Mortensen (Denise Gough) dubbed a "yummy mummy monster" after attempting to murder two youngsters by deliberately driving her car into a river.
Viewers will see the Toyota and its precious cargo crash through a safety barrier and then plunge into the icy waters of the Swale below.
But those few minutes took an army of more than 100 technicians, including a special effects unit normally at home on James Bond movies, and a budget of nearly £100,000 to film at night in the wind and rain. In fact, at one stage it became so dangerous the producer had to pull the plug and abandon the entire shoot.
Letitia admitted: "It was a tricky stunt to do. I've done several before, like cars crashing on motorways and cars going over bridges, but this was absolutely massive."
The complicated scene was shot over two separate weekends after the first attempt, in October, had to be called off because of gale-force winds from Storm Aiden.
Letitia said: "There was a lot of preparation. We had dummies in the car and a second car on stand-by in case something went wrong. We had all the professional people we could get including stuntmen, stunt co-ordinators and safety boats.
"And lo and behold when we were about to 'bolt' the car off the bridge we had winds of 50mph. It was about 11pm. I was being blown sideways and our art director's glasses blew off his head. It was getting very dangerous. I had to have a discussion to bring the whole thing to a halt.
"That was a massive decision but we had to because we were worried about the car flying back towards us. I've never known winds like it. We were incredibly unlucky. But as a producer I can't put the crew in danger so we had to halt everything, unpack and go home. It was a shocker and heart-breaking for us. It was unbelievable."
She added: "When we looked at the rushes to see what we had got we knew we had to go back. The only date was in December. We were terrified because we had no idea what the weather would be like. We could have had snow.
"But we returned and worked until 6am in the morning. I've never done that before. I've worked to three but not six. But it was exhilarating. We were all working on our nerves and adrenalin. We actually had a really good night and it was fabulous - and we got the shot."
The success of the stunt was down to Bickers, the special effects team. Letitia said: "They are the best in the world and normally associated with James Bond films. I've worked with them before. We only had two chances to get the shot so we went for the best people. When you have hundreds of crew standing around it has got to work. It cannot fail."
Technicians lit all along the railway line which took "many men, many hours" to set up. Powerful lights were suspended from giant cranes to floodlight the whole area.
Letitia said: "Usually we have a team of four sparks (electricians) on set but on this we had eight plus riggers. We had a circus full of people. And, of course, we had Covid to deal with as well. Luckily we were outside but we still had to self-distance."
Special effects included giant industrial wind and rain machines, if nature wasn't already doing her worst. Letitia admitted: "There was lot going against us that night."
So why pick the Kingsferry Bridge?
She explained: "The bridge is huge and dramatic and goes straight into the water. We could have found somewhere smaller and went to look at several other bridges and locations. But we wanted something powerful and dramatic. It makes a massive impact on the screen and the drive up to the bridge is incredible. It's just the best."
The film had to be shot at the weekend when trains between Sittingbourne and Sheerness could be stopped.
She said the Kent Film Office and Network Rail were "brilliant" in arranging the closure although it caused problems for some trying to get on and off the Island on mopeds and push bikes as they were not legally allowed to use the alternative high-rise Sheppey Crossing. Additional alternative transport was supplied for the second session.
Letitia last worked on the Island to film The Dark Heart. It was location manger Matt Lane who first suggested using the bridge. The series is directed by ex-EastEnders' actress Susan Tully.
Sheppey and film
Sheppey's Kingsferry Bridge is no stranger to being in the spotlight. One of its most famous appearances was in the 1975 Christmas special of the BBC comedy series Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em when Michael Crawford's hapless Frank Spencer was taking driving lessons and ended up trapped on the top of bridge after it had lifted. He went on to drive his Hillman Imp into the sea off Sheerness.
The Island has also been used by pop stars Robbie Williams and Dua Lipa to shoot their music videos and as a location for the Channel 4 show Hunted. Top Gear famously used it as a background to blow up a caravan at Leysdown. Several films have also been shot on Sheppey including Great Expectations which used the marshes for scenes with Magwitch the convict.
The Kingsferry Bridge was officially opened on April 20, 1960, by the Duchess of Kent Princess Marina. Click here for its history and how it works.