Thu, Jan 10, 2013 - Page 12 News List

A look underground

From Bond to Bourne to hairy monsters and sub-humans, cinema has always loved the Tube

By Steve Rose  /  The Guardian

Countering such terrors, though, is the Tube’s history as a place of safety. The image of fearful wartime masses huddled in tunnels during the blitz is now imprinted on the collective memory, partly thanks to its frequent recreation in movies set during the second world war: The Krays, the Dylan Thomas biopic The Edge of Love and, most recently, Atonement. If you see a historic-looking station in the movies, it’s probably Aldwych — that anomalous spur of the Piccadilly Line that finally closed in 1994 but continues to serve as a filming location. There’s even a 1972 train permanently parked in the tunnel for movie scenes (it’s the one in the Creep poster).

Other favoured stations for filming include East Finchley (which has a spare platform) and the defunct Jubilee line platforms of Charing Cross (for a more up-to-date feel). There’s so much demand that London Underground has a dedicated film office to handle requests. On average, they deal with about 12 big features per year, plus numerous shorts, documentaries, photography shoots and student films. Prices start at £500 (US$802) per hour, though something like Skyfall costs considerably more; its Tube scenes took about five nights of shooting at Charing Cross, spread over several months.

“It doesn’t take that many people to make it look like a working station, maybe 250 to 300 extras,” says Kate Reston, head of the film office. “But add in crew and we had about 450 people down there for Skyfall. It’s a closed-off part of the station, so they had complete privacy.” No actual trains or stations were harmed in the filming of the crash scene, she adds (it was done on a sound stage at Pinewood), though there were “long conversations” about how London Underground wanted its property portrayed.

Real stations aren’t always what is required, however. There’s a whole parallel network of imaginary stations, including Vauxhall Cross, the secret lair from an earlier Bond movie, Die Another Day; you might discover a buried Martian spaceship at Hobbs End station, too, as they did in Quatermass and the Pit, or stumble across the masked anarchist’s secret HQ at Strand, as featured in V for Vendetta.

What’s harder to find is a depiction of the Tube simply as itself. The best candidate can be found in a series of underground-inspired films from 1999 called Tube Tales. The majority were forgettable efforts directed by the likes of Jude Law, Ewan McGregor and Bob Hoskins, but Armando Iannucci turned in a gem called Mouth that recreates the familiar cross-section of a late-night Tube carriage: excitable hen party, bickering teens, lads about town, tired family. A smartly dressed woman, played by Daniela Nardini, sets off a series of fantasies among the other passengers, including a young man who stands with his crotch in her face. Then Nardini starts to vomit — all over her would-be suitor and fellow passengers, until everyone in the carriage is spattered. Horror, romance, fantasy, comedy, collective suffering — in other words, just another trip on the Tube.

Copyright: Guardian News & Media 2013

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