Thursday 17 January 2013
The film Les Misérables, which is currently in UK cinemas and has been nominated for several Oscars, used several locations in the Chilterns for some of its scenes. Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway amongst its biggest names, it is a heart-breaking story set in France in the 19th century.
Last March the church of St Mary the Virgin in Ewelme near Wallingford was used for several scenes featuring the principal character Jean Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman. The 200-strong cast and crew took over the medieval village to film scenes inside and outside the church. The belfry was converted into a tavern and the porch became a bishop's lodging.
In late April last year the crew moved to the National Trust's Ashridge Estate near Berkhamsted, where fake snow was scattered to re-create a wintry wood just outside Paris. This is where Valjean first meets Cossette, the young daughter of one of his factory workers that he has agreed to care for.
Les Misérables is just one of a long line of films that have used Ashridge as a location, including Stardust, Robin Hood, Sleepy Hollow and Harry Potter.
Graeme Cannon, Property Manager at Ashridge describes what it was like to be involved with the film:
"The location manager was on the lookout for a particularly atmospheric spot of woodland with a really large tree and like many of our visitors and other filmmakers she fell in love with Frithsden Beeches.
"This wood contains a number of magnificent old beeches, including a 400 year-old tree with a 25 metre span that's no stranger to the limelight having starred in Sleepy Hollow and Harry Potter.
"Once the area was chosen about 1,000 square metres of c90 (fake snow) was scattered to give it a wintry feel and Hugh Jackman made his dramatic entrance.
"We ask film crews to use c90 because it is washed away after use and doesn't have any negative conservation or environmental impacts - particularly important at Ashridge as we're a Site of Special Scientific Interest."