Filming for star-studded film Tulip Fever took over Norwich Cathedral a few years ago, and with the film scheduled for release - in August this year – we chat to Philip Thomas, the Cathedral Estates Manager, about the Cathedral’s popularity as a movie location and what happens when film crews invade!
Image: the Cathedral cloisters during filming for Tulip Fever, photo by Paul Hurst
How receptive is the Cathedral to filming, and being used as a backdrop to a feature film?
We like to think we are Film Friendly providing the subject matter is appropriate and that we can make the filming work around the day to day business of worship, and repairs.
How often has the Cathedral been used for TV or film purposes?
We get approached around once a year for major filming. Often a location manager will come and see us, but ultimately the director has the say which location is used, so often it does not come to anything or the dates won’t work. Sometimes they are long periods without any approaches, other times a few enquiries. We were approached about the Avengers film but had to decline as we already had Tulip Fever booked in. So we have had three films in the last ten years (Dean Spanley, Jack the giant Slayer, & Tulip Fever).
What is the atmosphere like when the crew, actors and cameras are running?
It can be exciting when the place is full of crew and equipment. There must have been a couple of hundred people on site when Warner Brothers filmed here. You are very aware that it is a costly business and that you don’t want to be standing in shot at a crucial moment. It is all very professional with a hierarchy through the departments all answerable to the director, and it is clear that you don’t approach the actors on set. Some are friendly when off duty.
Do you get to be part of the action at all?
Some of the choral scholars managed to get parts as extras in Jack the Giant Slayer and the Girls Choir were used in Tulip Fever.
Have you met any of the actors in Tulip Fever?
The actors tend to be shuttled to and fro by car to the unit base. I think the clergy got the opportunity to meet Dame Judy Dench.
Where does everyone stay – are there are lot of people to accommodate and did you recommend any places to stay, or was that just up to the crew to sort out?
The crew tend to stay and eat out locally which is very good for the local economy. The location department sorts this out themselves, although they are always keen for tips about good restaurants.
Norwich is no stranger to the world of film...
Norwich has played host to film crews several times over the years - a few notable projects included Jack and the Giant Beanstalk (Norwich Cathedral), Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (City Hall), Dean Spanley (Norwich Cathedral), Star Dust (Elm Hill), and 45 Years (various locations around Norwich including Magdalen Street).
If this has piqued your interest, watch the trailer for Tulip Fever below:
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