Lights, camera, traction: Croydon’s blossoming relationship with Hollywood

By - Friday 18th September, 2015

Jonny Rose examines Croydon’s growing presence on the silver screen

Nowadays, if you were to ask someone when was the last time they saw Croydon onscreen in a non-news related context they will almost certainly look to the small screen.

If they’re of a certain age they’ll most likely cite the gentle ’80s sitcom Terry and June. Otherwise, the obvious alternative to shoot for is the gloriously gloomy millennial sitcom Peep Show.

Which is strange because a cursory glance at the past few years and a look forward to the next five shows that Croydon’s ascendance as a filming location has been led largely by big screen productions rather than the small screen.

Croydon on the big screen

In 2006, the opening of the film adaptation of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel – and Christological clusterfudge – The Da Vinci Code was filmed in none other than Croydon’s Fairfield Halls. Actor Tom Hanks later left the cryptic message “Ah! Croydon! Fairfield Halls! Film-making! The 3 go together” in the venue’s visitor book. Impressively, the sentence remains more intelligible than anything Dan Brown has ever written.

Croydon has also appeared in Christopher Nolan’s popular Batman trilogy, with the modern frontage of Delta Point used as Gotham General Hospital in The Dark Knight Rises.

Hummingbird, featuring Jason Statham, was a 2012 British gangland thriller which saw the drivers of Old Palace Road having to brook the inconvenience of having no access to their road for a weekend. Whilst I’m sure it was no reflection on Croydon’s somewhat brutalist architecture (sorry, Tom Winter), Hummingbird was notably filmed “almost entirely at night”.

Superhero smash hit Iron Man 3, whilst not filmed in Croydon, did manage to work the borough into some snappy dialogue which saw Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian malign an antagonist’s thespian past (“They say his Lear was the toast of Croydon, wherever that is”).

Strippers vs. Werewolves is a 2012 British horror comedy which saw the Hustler Club on Surrey Street and Croydon High Street as sites for what sounds like a very ribald session of Top Trumps. The director would go on to use Croydon as a location for his equally cerebral-sounding White Collar Hooligan. Whilst I have yet to see either film, both seem like entirely appropriate selections for the next church group retreat.

Croydon’s bid for Hollywood stardom

Surprisingly, Croydon hasn’t always been the premier go-to location for cinematic battles between lycanthropes and buxom sex workers, or the gothic playground of lycra-clad vigilante billionaires.

The borough’s bid for stardom began in earnest in 2002, when the Croydon Film Commission was set up to raise the profile of the borough as a film location.

The commission was headed up by Linda Dyos, who also acted as the town’s “culture, film and tourism manager”. In the commission’s first two years it received over 600 enquiries and purported to have converted at least one third of these into actual film shoots. In Dyos’ own words in a 2005 council magazine:

“Filming in Croydon has generated an increase above 700% over the previous three years of filming in the borough”

The commission’s remit wasn’t limited to the big screen. Its work also saw Croydon pop up in the fourth series of Auf Wiedersehen Pet, The Bill, Bremner Bird and Fortune, Footballers’ Wives, and a BT ad with Jeremy Clarkson, as well as a variety of music videos.

Being recognised as a notable film location is more than just a parochial nicety: it is estimated that every £1 spent on location generates approximately £2.50 for the local economy. Local daily spend on a feature film or television shoot can vary between £800 for a small crew of six to £60,000+ for a feature film crew of two hundred working over a period of six weeks.

Sadly, the film commission was forced to wind down in 2006 but its work lives on in the credits section of many entries on IMBD.

Lights, camera, traction

It seems that Croydon’s cachet as a film location continues to rise.

Earlier in the year, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds and Gary Oldman decamped to Croydon College, where the further education college and university became the set for the blockbuster heist thriller Criminal.

Just last month, the cast of Straight Outta Compton – the new NWA biopic – took a trip around Croydon to film a promotional Universal Studios video called ‘Straight Outta London’. The video opens with a moody exposition shot of Ambassador House in Thornton Heath, before local hip-hop duo Krept & Konan take the cast around their various former South London haunts.

Wonderfully, Croydon continues to be a regular feature on our TV sets (and long may it continue). Perhaps one day it will be a regular feature on our cinema screens, too.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Carole Bonner

    You missed out Made in Dagenham!

    • Jonny Rose

      Oooh, yes – good shout! :)

  • Anne Giles

    We must all feel privileged.