Le location di Batman Begins – Film Locations for Batman Begins

Secondo appuntamento in questa fantastica rubrica riguardante le location dei film di Batman, oggi andremo a scoprire i luoghi famosi all’interno del primo film di Christopher Nolan, Batman Begisn del 2004!

Gotham City (già ricreata sul set per i film di Tim Burton) è un mix di art deco sinistramente vicino a Chicago e Londra, costruita in maniera impressionante tra gli Shepperton Studios e in uno dei due hangar giganteschi a Cardington, a un paio di chilometri a sud est di Bedford nel Bedfordshire. Entrambi i film successivi, “Il Cavaliere Oscuro” e “Il Cavaliere Oscuro il Ritorno”, si tornò a girare a Cardington.
Wayne Manor, dopo i suoi precedenti soggiorni negli Stati Uniti, torna nel Regno Unito. E le Mentmore Towers in Mentmore, nel Buckinghamshire, è niente meno che l’esterno del palazzo-orgia che compare nel film di Stanley Kubrick “Eyes Wide Shut”.

La prigione nepalese, invece, in cui Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) conosce in un faccia a faccia Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), è Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury, nell’Essex. Questa fortezza vittoriana, costruita intorno al 1870, aveva lo scopo di proteggere Londra dagli invasori francesi. Oggi si trova in un piacevole parco verde, sulla riva nord del Tamigi, protetta dal suo fossato. Ci sono giorni occasionali di apertura ed eventi, in cui si può dare un’occhiata all’interno. Il forte è un paio di km a sud della stazione ferroviaria di East Tilbury.
Siamo in Islanda, invece, per le scene che rappresentano l’Himalaya tibetano, zone scelte per la desolazione del paesaggio, zone dove Wayne fugge per cercare il misterioso capo della Setta delle Ombre Ras’ Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). Le scene sono state girate a Öræfasveit, Vatnajökuls e Svínafellsjökuls. Anche se un set esterno è stato costruito a Cardington, la parte dove Ducard insegna a Wayen l’uso della spada è stata filmata davvero sul ghiaccio di un lago delle zone islandesi.
Tornando a Gotham, la Wayne Enterprises è stata ripresa da Chicago. Essa è il punto di riferimento dell’intera città, situata sulla 141 West Jackson Boulevard, ai piedi di LaSalle Street.
Il teatro lirico, in cui si spaventò il giovane Bruce Wayne ospita di solito commedie leggere. È il Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road, WC2, nel cuore del West End di Londra. L’omicidio dei genitori di Bruce da Joe Chill è stato girato a Cardington.
Gli uffici al primo piano del “Building Farmiloe”, 28-36 St John Street, Clerkenwell, sono stati trasformati nella stazione della Polizia di Gotham, dove operava l’allora sergente Gordon (Gary Oldman). L’edificio è stato riutilizzato anche per il film “Shanghai”e per entrambi i sequel, “The Dark Knight” e “The Dark Knight Rises”. Christopher Nolan ha usato il “Farmiloe” anche nel film “Inception” con Leonardo Di Caprio, come una farmacia.
Il tribunale, in cui Joe Chill viene processato, è una mix di luoghi. L’esterno elaborato è a Chicago: il Palazzo Jewelers, 35 East Wacker Drive, sul fiume di Chicago.
Altro luogo importante è quello dove Batman consegna il boss Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) alla giustizia, luogo dal quale l’uomo pipistrello può sorvegliare la città dall’alto. Costruito nel 1926 come centro per il commercio dei diamanti, una delle caratteristiche di sicurezza di tale torre era un ascensore enorme con un’ampia capienza di carico. Secondo la leggenda, era uno dei palazzi frequentati al tempo da Al Capone.
L’atrio del Tribunale, in cui viene ucciso Chill da uno degli uomini di Falcone, prima che lo facesse Bruce Wayne, è la “Senate House”, all’Università di Londra, Malet Street.
La posizione viene ripresa per il sequel di The Dark Knight. Si dice che l’esterno abbia ispirato il look del film di George Orwell “1984”, e in effetti è usato nel film di Michael Radford. Non è normalmente aperto al pubblico.
Il molo di Gotham, dove Bruce Wayne fa la sua prima vera e propria apparizione nei panni di Batman, è Docks Tilbury in Essex, luogo già utilizzato in “Indiana Jones e l’ultima crociata” come laguna di Venezia.
Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), mostra la Tumbler, la Batmobile (anche se non è mai stata indicata come tale nel film), nello spazio vasto e vuoto della sala eventi presso il Centro ExCel, del Centro esposizioni e congressi dei Docklands.
Più avanti nel film, Bruce Wayne, da sempre indicato come playboy, si imbatte in Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) al ristorante “Plateau” di Terence Conran, al quarto piano del Canada Place. Come si può notare dal film, si tratta di un ristorante di ampio design, con una splendida vista su Canary Wharf. L’esterno del ristorante, tra l’altro, non è Docklands, ma CityPoint, in Ropemaker Street vicino Moorgate. Questo è anche il luogo dove Woody Allen e Scarlett Johansson spiano Hugh Jackman in “Scoop”.
Il Manicomio di Arkham è a Londra. L’esterno è ripreso dall’Istituto Nazionale per la ricerca medica, Ridgeway, a Burtonhole Lane, Mill Hill, NW7, a nord di Londra.
Il vano scala interno, in cui la squadra SWAT è attaccato da uno stormo di pipistrelli, però, è l’elaborata scala gotica di St. Pancras Chambers, originariamente appartenenva al “Sir George Gilbert Scott Midland Grand Hotel”, un palazzo sontuoso di lusso per i viaggiatori vittoriani.
Da quando ha aperto nel 1873, l’hotel è stato ben presto chiuso. Ironia della sorte, la solida costruzione dell’edificio ha portato alla sua rovina. Incapace di portare miglioramenti moderni come il bagno privato e il riscaldamento centrale, l’hotel ha inevitabilmente chiuso. Solo un restauro radicale ha riportato a farlo essere un hotel di lusso. Questo luogo si potrebbe anche riconoscere nella scala elaborata del primo video delle Spice Girls, “Wannabe”.
L’interno gotico industriale del laboratorio dell’Arkham Asylum, in cui il dottor Crane, alias lo Spaventapasseri, (Cillian Murphy) produce grandi quantità di allucinogeno, è stato girato nella stazione di pompaggio di Abbey Mills, Abbey Lane, E15, a West Ham. Si tratta di una stazione di pompaggio delle acque reflue, anche se i vittoriani non erano tipi da star molto dietro alle decorazioni. Costruito nel 1860 come parte del sistema fognario, dall’ingegnere Joseph Bazalgette, essa è giustamente considerata come una delle più grandi meraviglie dell’era industriale.
Dopo che Rachel viene avvelenata dalla tossina di Crane, Batman deve portarla nella Batcaverna per darle un antidoto. Passerà per una via stranamente tortuosa attraverso il Loop di Chicago.
Uno degli edifici sullo sfondo è la “US Post Office” dove fece irruzione Eliot Ness e compagni nel film colossal di Brian De Palma “Gli intoccabili”.
L’inseguimento prosegue fino a due miglia da un tratto di strada nel centro di Waukegan, a nord della città. Collegamento stradale di Chicago che non è mai stato ultimato, il che rende questo tratto di strada ideale per le riprese.

Second appointment with film locations of Gotham City in Batman Begins.

‘Gotham City’ (recreated on sets for the Tim Burton films) is a mix of sinisterly deco locations around Chicago and London, knitted seamlessly together, as well as some pretty impressive sets at Shepperton Studios and in one of the two gigantic airship hangars at Cardington, a couple of miles southeast of Bedford in Bedfordshire (rail: Bedford, from London Euston or King’s Cross). Both subsequent films, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, returned to Cardington.
Forget Wham!, Pow! and 60s camp. And even Burton’s darkly Gothic Batman starts to look lightweight. Christopher Nolan (Memento) – famously working without a second unit – delivers a grittily realistic reboot of the Caped Crusader myth.
‘Wayne Manor’, after its previous sojourns in the US, returns to the UK. It’s Mentmore Towers in Mentmore, Buckinghamshire, the exterior of the ‘Long Island’ orgy mansion in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and seen as a restaurant in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.
The ‘Bhutanese’ prison, in which Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) hits rock-bottom before being found by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), is Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury, in Essex. The Victorian fort, built around 1870, was intended to protect London from French invaders. It stands now in a pleasant green park on the north bank of the Thames, protected by its moat. There are occasional open days and events when you can take a look inside. The fort is a couple of miles south of East Tilbury railway station, past the village of East Tilbury itself (rail: East Tilbury, from London Fenchurch Street).
It’s off to Iceland for the ‘Tibetan Himalayas’ scenes – chosen for the landscape’s volcanic bleakness – where Wayne flees to seek counsel with the mysterious ninja leader Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), which were filmed at Öræfasveit, Vatnajökuls and Svínafellsjökuls. Although an exterior set was built at Cardington, the swordfight between Wayne and Ducard really was filmed on the location’s glacial ice.
The ‘Wayne Enterprises’ HQ towering over the city is Chicago. It’s the landmark Board of Trade Building, 141 West Jackson Boulevard, at the foot of LaSalle Street.
The ‘Gotham’ opera house, in which a young Bruce Wayne is spooked by an unfortunately bat-infested production, is more usually home to light comedy. It’s the Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road, WC2, in the heart of London’s West End (Tube: Leicester Square, Northern and Piccadilly Lines). The murder of Bruce’s parents by Joe Chill was filmed on the ‘Gotham’ street set at Cardington.
The first floor offices of the The Farmiloe Building, 28-36 St John Street, Clerkenwell, were transformed into ‘Gotham City Police Station’, in which Sergeant Gordon (Gary Oldman) works and, with an eye to economy, the film’s ‘Shanghai’ warehouse was filmed in the same building, and both sequels, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, return to the location. Christopher Nolan also used the Farmiloe as the pharmacy in Inception.
You might have seen the Italianate Victorian frontage of the building as the ‘Trans Siberian’ restaurant of ruthless patriarch Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl) in David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises.
But after visiting Sergeant Gordon, Bruce Wayne’s disappearance into the night was filmed on the rooftops of the buildings on the south side of West Lake Street at the junction with Franklin Street in Chicago.
The ‘City of Gotham State Courts’, in which Joe Chill stands trial, is a mixture of locations. The elaborate exterior is Chicago: the Jewelers Building, 35 East Wacker Drive, on the Chicago River. Much later, after delivering up crime boss Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) to the law, Batman surveys the city from atop the skyscraper’s elaborate ornamentation.
Built in 1926 as a centre for the diamond business, one of the tower’s security features was a huge lift which could carry cars up to the 22nd floor before the precious cargo needed to be unloaded (though this was dismantled in the early 40s). It’s dome once housed the Stratosphere Lounge, a speakeasy owned – according to legend – by Al Capone.
The ‘Gotham courts’ lobby, in which Chill is gunned down by one of Falcone’s lackeys before a vengeful Bruce Wayne can do the job himself, is Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, seen as ‘New York’ in Tony Scott’s vampire flick The Hunger, and the king’s bunker in Richard Loncraine’s Richard III, with ian McKellen.
The location is revisited for sequel The Dark Knight. Its brutalist exterior is said to have inspired the look of the ‘Ministry of Truth’ in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and indeed it is used in Michael Radford’s 1984 film version. It’s not normally open to the public.
The Gotham’ docks, where Bruce Wayne makes his first fully-fledged appearance as Batman, is Tilbury Docks in Essex (which you’ve probably seen in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as the ‘Venice’ waterfront).
Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) demonstrates the Tumbler, later to become the Batmobile (though it’s never referred to as such in the film), in the vast and empty space of the Event Hall at the ExCel Centre, the Exhibition and Conference Centre in the glossy new Docklands highrise complex.
Conveniently for the filmmakers, Bruce Wayne, in debauched playboy mode, bumps into Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) in Terence Conran’s restaurant Plateau, on the fourth floor of Canada Place, Canada Square, in the same complex. As you can see from the film, it’s a designer restaurant with great views over Canary Wharf.
The exterior of the restaurant, by the way, isn’t Docklands at all, but CityPoint, Ropemaker Street near Moorgate. The same striking ‘eyelid’ entrance also stands in for Docklands as the quarantined area in 28 Weeks Later… This is also where Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson spy on Hugh Jackman in Scoop.
There’s quite a bit of location trickery with Dr Crane’s asylum. ‘The Narrows’ is reached by Chicago’s Franklin Street Bridge, at the northern end of Franklin Street, linking the Loop to the Near North Side area (CTA: Clark/Lake Station; Blue, Orange, Pink, Green, Brown and Purple Lines). Like London’s Tower Bridge, it’s a bascule bridge in two sections, which can be raised to allow river traffic – or to seal off the Narrows, of course…
‘Arkham Asylum’ itself, though, is in London. The exterior is the severe 40s-style National Institute for Medical Research, the Ridgeway at Burtonhole Lane, Mill Hill, NW7 (Tube: Mill Hill East, Northern line), north London.
The interior stairwell, where the SWAT team encounters a flock of bats, though, is the elaborate Gothic stairwell of St Pancras Chambers, attached to St Pancras Station, Euston Road, London NW1, originally Sir George Gilbert Scott’s Midland Grand Hotel, a lavish palace of luxury for Victorian travellers.
The last word in comfort when it opened in 1873, the hotel was soon overtaken by changing demands. Ironically, the building’s solid construction proved its downfall. Unable to accommodate such modern improvements as en-suite bathrooms and central heating, the hotel inevitably closed down.
Its ceilings were boarded over, its lavish rooms divided up into offices, and in the sixties the wildly unfashionable extravaganza came close to being demolished. Grade I listing finally ensured its survival and radical restoration means that it is functioning as a luxury hotel once again.
St Pancras Chambers was an asylum, too, in Richard Attenborough’s 1992 biopic Chaplin, in which Charlie’s mother (Geraldine Chaplin) is confined after her mental breakdown, and was also seen in the 1976 WWII melodrama Voyage of the Damned, and in Robert Bierman’s 1997 film of George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying, with Richard E Grant.
Oh, and you might also recognise the elaborate stairwell from the first Spice Girls video, Wannabe.
The industrial Gothic interior of the ‘Arkham Asylum’ laboratory, in which Dr Crane, aka The Scarecrow, (Cillian Murphy) manufactures vast quantities of ‘psychotropic hallucinogen’, was filmed in the Abbey Mills Pumping Station, Abbey Lane, E15, in West Ham. It’s a sewage pumping station, but the Victorians were not ones to stint on the decoration. Built in the 1860s as part of engineer Joseph Bazalgette’s new sewerage system, it’s rightly regarded as one of the great – if not glamorous – wonders of the industrial age.
The London sewers slope gently from west to east, so that the contents flow naturally under gravity, but this means that on reaching the East End, they are deep underground. The function of this strikingly Byzantine facility was simply to pump vast amounts of poo high enough for it to flow downhill away from the city and into the Thames.
The station has since been used for the filming of Gerald McMorrow’s dystopian sci-fi Franklyn, with Eva Green, Sam Riley and Ryan Phillippe.
After Rachel receives a nasty sample of The Scarecrow’s panic-inducing toxin, Batman races to get her to the antidote – but by a strangely circuitous route through the Chicago Loop.
From the Franklin Street Bridge, he’s suddenly careering west, about seven blocks to the south, on Jackson Boulevard at LaSalle Street (which is right in front of the building used as ‘Wayne Enterprises’), then heading north on LaSalle Street itself (towards the same spot) before swerving east into West Quincy Street (a dead end).
The grand pillared building in the background here, by the way, is the ‘US Post Office’ raided by Eliot Ness and crew in Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables.
He takes a short cut, into the Randolph and Wells Parking Garage, North Wells Street between Randolph and Lake Streets in the northwest section of the Loop, swirling up the circular ramp for the spectacular rooftop chase (largely filmed in the studio using miniatures).
The chase continues along Lower Wacker Drive, the lower level of the double-decker highway bordering the Chicago River, running along the northwest border of the Loop, and onto the ‘Gotham freeway’ – which is the Amstutz Expressway, a two-mile stretch of highway in downtown Waukegan, north of the city. The highway’s intended link to Chicago was never built, which makes the near-forgotten stretch of road ideal for filming.

Next week new appointment with the film locations of The Dark Knight!

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