The Personal History of David Copperfield
In July 2018 the streets of Bury St Edmunds were turned into a movie set and filled with film crew, extras, horse drawn carriages, directors, producers, cameras and some of Hollywood's top names!
Filming took place on Angel Hill outside The Angel Hotel, where Dickens stayed three times, The Athenaeum, where he did some of his readings, and in Crown Street and Chequer Square before moving to the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.
The Personal History of David Copperfield, was directed by the multi-award-winning writer, filmmaker and broadcaster Armando Iannucci and starred BAFTA Award winner Dev Patel as David Copperfield. And both were present during filming in Bury St Edmunds.
And Bury St Edmunds was chuffed when the first official photo was released featuring Dev Patel in costume in Churchgate Street, Bury St Edmunds.
Movie Star Bob Hoskins was Born in Bury St Edmunds
Bury St Edmunds was also the birthplace of a Hollywood legend.
Bob Hoskins was born here during the Second World War, after his mother was evacuated during heavy bombings. He was born in Bury St Edmunds on 26 October 1942, the son of Elsie (née Hopkins), a cook and nursery school teacher, and Robert Hoskins, a bookkeeper and lorry driver.
Very sadly Bob died in 2014 at the age of 71, but his movie roles in such classics as Pennies from Heaven (1978), The Long Good Friday (1980), Mona Lisa (1986), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Mermaids (1990), and Super Mario Bros. (1993), Brazil (1985), Hook (1991), Nixon (1995), Enemy at the Gates (2001), Mrs Henderson Presents (2005), A Christmas Carol (2009) will live on.
Movie Star Visitors
The Angel Hotel is a beloved destination for visiting celebrities and A List film stars shooting in the area.
Pierce Brosnan stayed at The Angel while filming Tomorrow Never Dies. Few people know that the scenes set in a US airbase in the South China Sea were actually filmed at RAF Lakenheath, while the high-altitude, low-opening (HALO) parachute jump was filmed at RAF Mildenhall.
Angelina Jolie also stayed at The Angel during the filming of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Suffolk's Elveden Hall was transformed into villain Manfred Powell’s exotic home in London. The interior scenes were filmed in the Indian style rooms at the Hall. Maharajar Duleep Singh acquired the Elveden Estate in 1863 and he rebuilt the Hall in an Indian style.
On location in Lavenham
The wonky timber frame houses of Lavenham are a sought-after set for historical movies and fantasy dramas. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this medieval village, which made its wealth from the wool trade, was used as Godric’s Hollow.
Almost 25 years before returning to Suffolk for Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick was in Lavenham filming his 18th century drama Barry Lyndon. In the scene filmed at Lavenham’s The Guildhall, the protagonist – played by Ryan O’Neal – undergoes a leg amputation after being wounded in a duel.
Lavenham was also an ideal backdrop for the 1966 thriller, The Witchfinder General starring Vincent Price. Set during the English Civil War, the film depicts the terror caused by Matthew Hopkins, who was appointed Witchfinder General by the Puritans under Cromwell.
On a lighter note, over in Long Melford, Kentwell Hall made an ideal Toad Hall in The Wind in the Willows, starring Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Steve Coogan and Anthony Sher.
Stars of the small screen
One of the most famous TV series filmed in and near Bury St Edmunds was the BBC classic, Lovejoy. Hugely popular, this drama followed the lovably roguish Lovejoy, played by Ian McShane, as he solved mysteries while hunting for valuable antiques. Lavenham regularly featured in episodes alongside Bury St Edmunds, Clare, Hadleigh and Long Melford.
Over in Newmarket, the cast of The Only Way is Essex enjoyed at day at the races. As you would expect, the TOWIE boys suited up and the girls sported attention-grabbing hats while they knocked back champagne at Newmarket Racecourse.
Unsurprisingly, the VIP area of Newmarket Racecourse is a hotspot for celebrities – and the odds of spotting local Frankie Dettori are always good!
Famous connections with the Theatre Royal
The Theatre Royal is special to many actors, and none more so than Timothy West CBE, who is the patron of the theatre’s restoration appeal. In West’s illustrious career, he has played over 200 characters on the stage and screen. His film credits include The Day of the Jackal, The Thirty Nine Steps and Iris, while his roles in TV soaps EastEnders and Coronation Street have made him a household name. West has worked in theatres across the country yet he says, “the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds holds an unrivalled place in my thoughts.”
The Regency theatre’s restoration appeal has drawn support from other stars too, including Dame Judi Dench CBE. “The Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds holds a unique place in the history of theatre in this country as well as a special place in my heart,” she said.
Stephen Fry is also enthusiastic about this treasure. “My enthusiasm for the restoration of the Theatre Royal at Bury St Edmunds knows no bounds,” he said. “It is a vital piece of our theatrical heritage.”
Charles Dickens and Norah Lofts
Even before cinemas and television, Bury St Edmunds attracted the celebrities of the day. In the 19th century, Charles Dickens always drew a crowd when he toured the country to speak or read from him books. Dickens visited Bury St Edmunds three times during his career, twice reading to a captive audience at The Athenaeum. Look out for the blue plaque outside The Angel Hotel, where Dickens stayed.
A blue plaque also marks the house where author Norah Lofts lived. The films Jassy, Guilt Is My Shadow, The Witches, and 7 Women were all based on novels by Lofts.
These days, The Apex is an amazing venue for catching well-known musicians, dancers and comedians. Here, and at the Theatre Royal, local projects also foster emerging talent so we’ve no doubt there’ll be even more luminaries linked to Bury St Edmunds in the years to come.
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