London Hotels in Films
The Ritz - Notting Hill (1999)
London has been a favourite location for movie directors past and present, from Alfred Hitchcock to Woody Allen. Gangster films, crime dramas, atmospheric thrillers and soppy rom-coms in the Richard Curtis mould have all used London's streets and main attractions as a key backdrop to telling their story. Some of cinema's most iconic scenes have taken place in London hotel rooms, which have experienced love, romance, murder, drug deals and much intrigue through the ages. Here, we look at some of the capital's hotels and see the role they played in films over the past half a century.
Lancaster Terrace, Paddington, London, W2 2TY
Tube: Lancaster Gate Station, Paddington Station
Hiya Charlie! Just out of prison? What better way to celebrate than spending the day with a bevy of dolly birds in Suite 602 of the Lancaster London Hotel in Bayswater? This is what happens to Michael Caine's character Charlie Croker in the 1969 classic The Italian Job. After being released from a two-year stint at Her Majesty's pleasure, the dapper Charlie is picked up by his girlfriend Lorna in the Pakastani ambassador's car and driven to his tailor and then on to the hotel - then known as the Royal Lancaster - for a "coming out present" which consists of seven scantily clad young ladies. "Now, what would you like?" asks (perhaps the best girlfriend in the world?) Lorna, to which the besuited Croker succinctly replies, with a glint in his eye: "Everything." And Charlie's stamina doesn't stop there; on checking out at reception he receives a written invitation to Room 1666 from a Mrs Beckerman, the widow of the man killed in the film's opening sequence. Despite being held at gunpoint by the grieving widow, Croker manages to turn on the charm. With "four hours to kill" the pair soon get down to business... and Charlie also agrees to take on the eponymous heist, setting in motion a story which turns out to be a real cliff-hanger.
The 416 rooms of the Lancaster London no longer boast the stylish 60s décor seen in the cult film but the four-star hotel still offers some of the best views over Hyde Park and is located within touching distance of some of London's best shopping areas.
150 Piccadilly, St James's, London, W1J 9BR
Tube: Green Park Station
One of the most memorable scenes in Richard Curtis' Notting Hill takes place in London's famous Ritz Hotel in Green Park. Days after they first meet - and kiss - superstar actress Anna (Julia Roberts) invites travel book seller William (Hugh Grant) to come and visit her at the Ritz, where she is staying under the name "Flintstone". Anna's suite, which overlooks St James's Park, is still being used for press interviews and William, brandishing flowers, finds himself pretending to be a writer from Horse & Hound magazine, a hilarious turn of events which sees the bumbling Englishman ask Anna whether or not more horses could have been used in her latest blockbuster, a sci-fi movie shot in space. In spite of the embarrassment caused, William still persuades Anna to come for dinner with him and his friends, but has his heart broken when the pair return to the Ritz, only for Anna's boyfriend to turn up, forcing William to pretend to be a waiter. The Ritz rarely permits filming inside but gave unprecedented access to director Curtis for Notting Hill. A scene later on in the film sees a desperate William asking the concierge whether or not a "Miss Flintstone" or "Bambi" is still staying - only to be told that "Miss Pocahontas" had in fact checked out and was giving a press conference at the Savoy Hotel.
45 St Martins Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2N 4HX
Tube: Leicester Square Station, Covent Garden Station, Charing Cross Station, Embankment Underground Station
One minute he's romping with Sienna Miller on a king-size bed, the next he's being dangled upside-down from the roof of a Canary Wharf high-rise - it's all in a day's work for a pre-Bond Daniel Craig in the British gangster movie Layer Cake. Craig's character, an unnamed well-spoken drug dealer, invites Miller's cockney beauty Tammy to his room at the swanky Philippe Stark-designed St Martins Lane Hotel in Covent Garden. While she is stripping down to some strikingly gratuitous black stockings and suspenders in the bathroom, Craig lies topless on the wide bed in the white, minimalist room when the doorbell rings and a voice calls out "room service". Answering the door, Craig is welcomed by the word "champagne" and then a punch in the stomach before being gagged, blindfolded and bundled in a laundry trolley by two heavies. Unaware of what's going on, Tammy returns from the bathroom to find the plush hotel room empty. It's quite a sight...
1 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London, W1J 7BX
Tube: Green Park Station, Hyde Park Corner Station
The Park Lane Hotel, which overlooks Green Park in Mayfair, is London's finest monument to Art Deco and has been used in numerous films since its opening in 1927. Most recently, the hotel's glamorous bar was used as the silver deco ocean liner ballroom in the film Brideshead Revisited (2008) in a scene in which Julia, the object of Charles Ryder's affection, celebrates her engagement to Canadian Rex Mottram. After lending money to his alcoholic friend Sebastian Flyte, Julia's brother, Charles is then told by an irate Lady Marchmain that he is no longer welcome at Brideshead. The director Neil Jordan also used the same silver gallery for his films Mona Lisa (1986) and The End of the Affair (1999), but perhaps the most memorable use of the hotel's facilities came in the 2000 movie Gangster No.1, which shows off the Park Lane Hotel's luxurious ground floor toilet. Having placed his champagne glass at the base of the urinal, Malcolm McDowell's crime baron splashes a few wayward drips into the glass. He then tips the elderly bathroom attendant - "Here you go, granddad, go get yourself a nice bird" - before picking up his glass and moving it to his lips. But instead of taking a swig, he drops the butt of his cigar into the glass, looks to the camera and says: "What do you take me for, a c***?"
Sheraton took over the Park Lane Hotel in the '90s and has updated the 302-room establishment while retaining its quintessential British style. Each room maintains the essence of the art deco spirit and many have retained their original features, such as marble fireplaces and bathrooms. Other films to use the hotel as a location are 2007's The Golden Compass (as a restaurant and beauty parlour) and the 1986 Madonna turkey, Shanghai Surprise (as the 'Zig Zag Club').
Hyde Park Corner, Belgravia, London, SW1X 7TA
Tube: Hyde Park Corner Station
Stanley Kubrick's 1999 thriller Eyes Wide Shut used The Lanesborough's most expensive suite, The Royal Suite, as Victor Ziegler's snooker room in the film's pseudo-denouement scene. Bill (Tom Cruise) is summoned by Ziegler (Sydney Pollack) to his home where the two circle his red pool table while the mysterious millionaire gives his explanation of the previous night's events, which included the film's famous masked orgy scenes. The Royal Suite is said to cost up to £8,000 per night, for which you get three bedrooms, a drawing room, study, kitchen, 24-hour butler service, and a chauffer driven Bentley for the evening. The Suite's junior bedroom was also used for the sex scenes between Cruise's character and his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman), including the episode in which the pair smoke marijuana, make out and have an argument - all while wearing very few clothes.
The prestigious 5-star Hyde Park Corner hotel, part of the St Regis group, is not the only place in London that features in Eyes Wide Shut. Although the film takes place predominantly in Manhattan, several London streets were dressed as New York, while the Jazz Club scene, where Bill first learns about the orgy, was shot in Madame JoJo's in Soho.
1c Portland Place, London, W1B 1JA
Tube: Oxford Circus Station
The wonderful thing about film locations is that they don't have to tell the truth. In fact, while many scenes are shot in studios made to look like real-life places, plenty of others are even shot in cities that purport to be other cities. Take Piers Brosnan's James Bond debut, GoldenEye, for instance; Somerset House convincingly doubles up as a St Petersburg square (where CIA agent Jack Wade's sky blue Lada breaks down) while scenes that take place outside St Petersburg's Grand Hotel Europe were actually shot outside the Langham Hotel in Portland Place. The buildings are remarkably similar and all it took was the addition of a Russian flag alongside a Union Jack and the Stars 'n' Stripes to make the scene believable. The interiors - including the baths where Bond wrestles with Onatopp - were sets, however.
51 Buckingham Gate, Westminster, Westminster, London, SW1E 6AF
Tube: St James's Park Station, Victoria Station
Howards End, the 1992 film adaptation of E.M. Forster's acclaimed novel, features the courtyard of the luxurious 5-star apart-hotel 51 Buckingham Gate. The colourful courtyard of the converted Edwardian apartment block, which is located between St James's Park and Victoria, is used as the exterior of the London home of Anthony Hopkins' character, Henry Wilcox. If you look carefully through the hotel's gateway, you can see the leafy landscaped courtyard, with its Shakespearian figures and central fountain set against the green-tiled and red-bricked walls of the imposing art nouveau mansion flats. 51 Buckingham Gate is part of the Taj group of hotels and includes the Michelin-starred Quilon restaurant and Sodashi Spar with gym, sauna and steam rooms.
10 Monmouth Street, Seven Dials, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9HB
Tube: Covent Garden Station, Tottenham Court Road Station, Leicester Square Station
Woody Allen has often been flagged up for his gushing picture-postcard "chocolate-box" portrayal of London but the truth is that you can't really make the capital look gritty when you shoot scenes in the West End's Brasserie Max. In his 2005 thriller Match Point, central character Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has a meal with his girlfriend Chloe (Emily Mortimer), her brother Tom (Matthew Goode) and his American actress girlfriend Nola (Scarlett Johansson) after watching La Traviata at the Royal Opera House. The class divide opens between the well-to-do siblings and their shallower-pocketed partners when former Irish tennis pro Chris insists on ordering a modest roast while Chloe suggests he should have caviar blinis instead of "boring" chicken after she suspects him of humble modesty. The rest of the scene sees Chris and Nola drawn closer together as the balls are set in motion for their fateful affair.
Located just off Seven Dials, Brasserie Max has the air of a Parisian pavement café and is adjoined to the lobby of the luxurious Covent Garden Hotel on Monmouth Street. The Covent Garden Hotel is a popular spot for A-list celebrities and, for all its chic charm, also has a genuinely laid-back, home-from-home atmosphere.
16 Collingham Road, South Kensington, London, SW5 0LX
Tube: Gloucester Road Station, Earls Court Station
Mike Leigh's 2002 British drama film All or Nothing tells the story of the everyday lives of three working class families. It's all rather depressing and covers a range of topics such as unwanted pregnancies, unemployment, poverty, child obesity, bullying and abuse - but still manages to inject a little bit of class into things with a visit to the 3-star Ambassadors Hotel in Bloomsbury. Leaving the glum Greenwich council estate behind, Timothy Spall's taxi driver Phil drops off a claustrophobic French lady carrying a rather garish vase to the contemporary hotel near Euston Station. The Ambassadors, in striking distance of the King's Cross St Pancras Eurostar terminal, retains its original Belle Epoque facade but boasts a completely modern interior with a cutting edge restaurant and bar.
2 Whitehall Court, Westminster, London, SW1A 2EJ
Tube: Embankment Underground Station, Charing Cross Station, Westminster Station
The old National Liberal Club in Whitehall - which has now been incorporated into the Royal Horseguards Hotel - has featured in a number of films over the past 30 years. Most recently, in the 2005 drama The Constant Gardener, its Smoking Room provided the backdrop for the London meeting between Bill Nighy's smooth-talking crooked head of Foreign Office and Ralph Feinnes's lead character following the murder of his wife (Rachel Weisz). Terry Gilliam's fantasy Brazil (1985) uses the Billiard Room for the cluttered home of one of the main characters, while David Lynch uses the club's corridors and its dramatic spiral staircase in for scenes set in a London hospital in The Elephant Man (1980). The 1986 century-spanning decapitating drama Highlander used the club for scenes set in the New York library, while director Russell Mulcahy revisited the venue for the 1992 thriller Blue Ice, with Michael Caine.
Emulating the style of a French chateau and presiding over the Thames between Embankment and Westminster, the 5-star Royal Horseguards Hotel was built in 1884 and provides one of London's greatest backdrops. The Grade I-listed building is now part of the Guoman hotel group and has 281 rooms and suites.
22 Park Lane, Mayfair, London, W1K 1BE
Tube: Hyde Park Corner Station
Two Hilton hotels feature in the penultimate film of Alfred Hitchock's career, the 1972 murder thriller Frenzy. In the film, central character Dick Blaney (played by a moustachioed Jon Finch) is wanted for questioning following the murder of his ex-wife. Blaney takes his barmaid girlfriend Babs (Anna Massey) to the Hyde Park Hilton, which was then called The Coburg, where the two check into room 322, "The Cupid Room", for the princely sum of £10. But their romantic moment is ruined when Blaney sees himself named in a newspaper headline and an overly attentive porter calls the police. The two exit through the window and run down the fire stairs of the hotel, which is located next to Queensway tube and opposite Hyde Park.
Later, Blaney goes to the Hilton Park Lane to ask for help from his old RAF chum Johnny Porter (Clive Swift). But Johnny's suspicious wife Hetty (played by Billie Whitelaw, the scary nanny from The Omen) is having none of it, and both Babs and Blaney flee the scene as the creepy Hetty watches from the second-floor balcony of the tall hotel, which boasts the excellent Galvin at Windows restaurant overlooking Hyde Park on its top floor. The rest of Frenzy includes some great locations in London, including Covent Garden, Oxford Street and sweeping shots across the Thames.
2 Caxton Street, Westminster, London, SW1H 0QW
Tube: St James's Park Station
Rather than bringing Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece to the screen, Neil Jordan's 1986 British film Mona Lisa tells the story of a petty criminal cabdriver George (Bob Hoskins) and a high-class call girl Simone (Cathy Tyson), who he is assigned by his boss Maltwell (Michael Caine) to drive to and fro clients. Simone's regular haunts include the classy Ritz Hotel and the glamorous Park Lane Hotel, but also the salmon pink St Ermin's Hotel on Caxton Street near St James's Park Tube.
The art nouveau interior of the 4-star hotel doubles up as an American restaurant in Warren Beatty's Oscar-winning Reds (1982) while its large ballroom was impressively transformed into the dining room of the Savoy Hotel in The Importance of Being Earnest (2002). Interestingly, the gunplay scene with Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen in Sid and Nancy (1986) takes place on the St Ermin's roof - not exactly the best place to fire off a weapon given the hotel is but a stone's throw from the policemen of New Scotland Yard and politicians of Westminster. A listed Victorian building, the Italian-run St Ermin's Hotel is both extremely well located and brimming with British charm.
Royal Eagle Hotel - Trainspotting (1996)
While most of Danny Boyle's Trainspotting takes place in rather insalubrious parts of Edinburgh and Glasgow, Renton (Ewan McGregor) and the boys do venture down to London for the film's climax, which comes together with a drug deal in Royal Eagle Hotel in Bayswater. On the way to the deal, Sickboy (Jonny Lee Millar) leads the quartet over a zebra crossing on Craven Road in a parody of the Beatles' Abbey Road cover. At the Royal Eagle Hotel they meet drug dealer Keith Allen and sell him their heroin for £16,000 before heading down to the pub to celebrate. The Royal Eagle Hotel was in fact empty and dilapidated at the time of filming and accordingly the uninspiring room used for the drug deal was actually filmed in a hotel back in Glasgow. The five grand Victorian houses which make up the Royal Eagle Hotel have since been totally renovated into a popular 3-star hotel, located a few steps from Paddington Station and a few hundred metres from Hyde Park.
The Strand, Covent Garden, London, WC2R0EU
Tube: Embankment Underground Station, Charing Cross Station, Covent Garden Station
The climax of Richard Curtis' Notting Hill takes place in the Lancaster Room of the Savoy Hotel, where actress Anna (Julia Roberts) is giving a press conference before leaving the capital and returning to the States. Having raced through the West End in brother-in-law Bernie's battered blue Peugeot estate, William (Hugh Grant) rushes through the mahogany revolving doors and into the marble-floored foyer of the Savoy. On failing to convince the concierge that he is an accredited member of the press - he only has a Blockbuster card to flash - William is saved after his wheelchair-bound sister claims she is writing an article about how London hotels treat the disabled. Inside the press conference, William plucks up the courage to ask Anna to stay in London in front of the paparazzi and media and after a suspenseful silence, she agrees. "That's very good news. The readers of Horse & Hound will be delighted," says William before the cameras start flashing and Elvis Costello's 'She' plays over a montage showing what happens next. Incidentally, the happy couple get married in an outdoor wedding reception in the beautifully lush and verdant Zen Garden of designer Anouska Hempel's minimalist The Hempel Hotel in Bayswater.
After a £100 million restoration, The Savoy reopened at the end of 2010. Located just off the Strand, the Savoy has 268 rooms and suites, with Art Deco and Edwardian touches throughout, and offers spectacular views over the Thames. It was also used in scenes featuring Meryl Streep in the 1982 film The French Lieutenant's Woman, in the opening sequence of the Sean Connery / Catherine Zeta-Jones yarn Entrapment (1999) and the splendid ending of British gangster flick The Long Good Friday (1979), where two gun-wielding IRA men, including a young Piers Brosnan making his screen debut, abduct Bob Hoskins' gangland boss Harold Shand in a smart car after a final showdown with some American mobsters in room 412.
Eighties cinematic time-travel oddity Biggles: Adventures in Time was set primarily in London with certain scenes shot in and outside the then-new Tower Hotel - now part of the Guoman group. At the time, the modern interior of the hotel was considered state of the art - which is more than can be said of the film, which was a box office flop. Trying to tap into the Back To The Future market, Biggles: Adventures in Time tells the confused story of Jim Ferguson, a catering salesman, who inadvertently falls through a time hole to 1917 where he saves the life of a dashing RAF pilot, Biggles. Back in the present day, Jim visits Biggles' former commanding officer Raymond (Peter Cushing, in his last film before his death), who informs Jim than he and Biggles are "time twins". There follows a series of madcap scenarios through time in which the trio must stop Nazi Germany changing the course of history by destroying a new secret weapon. One scene sees the heroes abseil down the walls of Tower Bridge, where, bizarrely, Raymond lives. The Tower Hotel has one of the capital's most sough-after views overlooking the River Thames, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.