Shooting "A Royal Night Out"
A Royal Night Out started shooting for six weeks in April 2014 entirely on location. One of the filmmakers’ biggest challenges was realising such an ambitious concept with the resources of a small British independent film. As London was too expensive a city in which to film so many period-specific exteriors, the production team recreated 1940s London in the northern English city of Hull.
“Out of all of the cities we looked at as a team, Hull was the one that gave us both the grandeur of a street like a Piccadilly and a nearby warren of streets that was medieval in its layout and could stand in for Soho,” says location manager Tom Howard. “And both were within walking distance of each other.”
Production designer Lawrence Dorman delivered the details that transformed the streets into 1945 London. “Lawrence was able to add all the vehicles and the sandbags and all the design elements that take you into that world,” says Jarrold. “He was very keen on the subtle details of the interiors, in pubs and in homes. He found the balance between research and realism and the quite extraordinary things that did happen on V-E Night and created a quite magical quality. He has done a fantastic job.”
The local authorities for which a film shoot - and the disruption it can bring - was a thrilling event warmly welcomed the production. “The council was very open to us closing streets and the locals were very keen on being extras,” says Jarrold. “They brought a real life to it.”
Over 300 extras were fitted into period costume in a big marquee in each of the Hull locations. “It’s a lot of laundry and a lot of shoe polishing,” smiles costume designer Claire Anderson.
A ROYAL NIGHT OUT is set mainly over the course of one night, which meant three weeks of night shoots. Belgian cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne was the person required to illuminate the darkness.
“I saw Christophe’s show-reel by chance when we were in prep and thought it would be very interesting to have a foreign cinematographic view on this very English night,” says Jarrold of Beaucarne, whose credits include Mr Nobody and Coco Chanel. “I thought his work was stunning and that he could work well with our schedule. We worked closely to use searchlights and flare and bonfires to create a great atmosphere for the crowds.”
The pivotal scene set on two buses, with Elizabeth and Jack on one and Margaret on the other, was complex to film. “At a certain point the buses divide and you realise Elizabeth is losing sight of Margaret,” Jarrold explains. “We discussed how to do that and whether to do it with special effects. In the end we got two very good bus drivers and did it all for real down two big streets in Hull, which was logistically quite complicated. Luckily we had two of the most terrific bus drivers who pulled it of brilliantly.”
Filming in Hull left a big impression on all the cast and crew.
“Julian made the decision to do all the bus stuff at once and just get it over in one night,” says Gadon. “Everyone was really nervous because it was a whole night of being on a cramped, hot bus, driving around Hull. But it was actually really fun. All the extras were from Hull and a lot of them; it was the first time they’d ever acted before, ever been in a movie or ever been on a film set. They had all of this excitement and energy and it injected that bus scene with the kind of energy we really needed. Everything we did in Hull was like that, because they were so into it and into making the movie. That always adds to the atmosphere when everybody wants to be there and is passionate about the project.”
Following three weeks in Hull, the production moved to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire and Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire to film the interiors of Buckingham Palace. The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and the Duke and Duchess of Rutland privately own both respectively.
“There is no one place that is going to look entirely like Buckingham Palace so it was a case of patching it together from different houses,” says Howard. “Chatsworth and Belvoir gave us the scale and size of the rooms that we needed.”
The grandeur of both locations had an impact on the cast. “Chatsworth House is an unbelievable place,” enthuses Powley. “Just to be in the grounds, in the building and around all the art that they have. Someone pointed to a piano and said ‘Princess Margaret used to come and play on that piano’. We felt very close to the story.”
Even Rupert Everett was affected. “A real room is always better than a film set,” he says. “There’s something lovely about a real room that has its own vibration and transports that across the lens into the cinema.”
Finding a location to stand in for the interior of the Ritz proved difficult. “London hotels are impossible to shoot in and are too modernised,” Jarrold explains. “We found a very beautiful, faded grand hotel called the Metropole in the middle of Brussels. We were able to take it over and recreate the big night at the Ritz. It is one of the truer aspects of the story, as we know from two eyewitnesses who were there that night. So it was a very important part of the story and we wanted to get it in.”