British Scenes Filmed Abroad
Quite often, scenes from movies will be filmed in the UK, even though they are set in other places around the world. For instance, the UK has stood in for New York, Los Angeles, Uganda, Iceland, Korea, Russia, Iraq, and many more.
On the other hand, you occasionally get a film which is set in the UK, but the actual scenes are filmed somewhere in a different country. These faux-British scenes are sometimes very effective. But then, sometimes they... um... arn't.
Here are some British-set movie scenes which were not filmed in Britain.
The Core (2003)
The Core is a sci-fi movie about how the Earth's core stops spinning causing a disruption of its magnetic field leading to the fear that the world will be cooked by microwave radiation from the sun. It's practically a documentary.
All around the world, chaos is caused by various scientifically dubious side-effects. In Trafalgar Square, London, England the famous pigeons lose the ability to navigate, and crash randomly into people, vehicles, and buildings, causing a taxi and a London bus to crash.
In actual fact, the film-makers have been quite clever about how they filmed this scene. There are some shakey-cam shots filmed in the real Trafalgar Square, showing crowds of terrified people running around - which they could have filmed without having to close any streets. Then the actual vehicle crash bits were filmed separately in Victoria, Canada. Edited together, and with computer-generated pigeons layered over everything, it's actually quite convincing.
When looked at more closely, the Canada footage shows a few errors. For starters, the road markings look nothing like British road markings. Also, at one point a different bus goes past a shop window, and you can see that the passenger doors are on the right. Plus, Trafalgar Square would have much more traffic than that shown.
Generally, though, these scenes are not bad. Ironically, not long after the movie was released, measures were introduced to remove the pigeons from Trafalgar Square due to their droppings damaging buildings, and generally being a health hazard. I can't help thinking that part of the reason was as a precaution in case a scenario such as the one depicted in this film actually happened.
CLICHÉ RATING: 3 - London taxi, London bus, red phonebox.
The Ghost (2010)
The Ghost concerns a man employed to ghost-write the memoirs of the former UK Prime Minister, who now lives in the USA. However, scandal is never far away, and all kinds of political shenanigans ensue.
Despite being set in the UK and USA, for legal reasons the film's director, Roman Polanski, couldn't actually visit either of those countries. Apart from a few second-unit shots, the film was mostly shot in Germany instead.
The scene depicted in the image above, which is outside the book publisher's office in London, was actually filmed in Berlin. It looks surprisingly effective. It may be because the road markings are correct - in a lot of cases film-makers faking British scenes don't bother changing the road-markings, which makes the scene feel slightly 'off', even if the viewer isn't sure why. It also helps that in this case, the architecture is so similar to London that even without the British taxi and postbox and road markings, it's still a pretty good double.
CLICHÉ RATING: 3 - London taxi, London bus, red postbox.
Body Of Lies (2008)
Unusually, these scenes from Ridley Scott's thriller take place, not in London, but in Manchester, England. It's not often that big American films even acknowlege the existence of British cities outside London, let alone set scenes there.
In the scene, shot in Baltimore, Maryland, terrorists blow up their safe-house when it's stormed by armed police. The scene is quite convincing in some respects, but considering that the director is British, they made some silly mistakes.
For starters, terraced houses in Manchester do not have flat roofs, as depicted here - they have tiled apex roofs. I suppose this is a limitation of the location, which in all other respects is pretty good.
Less excusable, however, is the vehicles. The street has an American looking Nissan on it, and the milk float used in the scene is a non-British design. Also, in the image above, you can clearly see an American fire-engine. The milk float was necessary for the scene, but the others weren't. They could easily have been omitted.
CLICHÉ RATING: 2 - red postbox, red phonebox.