Have you ever watched a TV show or a movie and then looked up the filming location? If you want to see the places where the blockbusters or your favourite TV shows were set, specialist tours are available both in Britain and the USA. Keri Jones spoke with three operators.
Alan Locher of On Location Tours arranges TV and movie tours around New York. There’s one that takes in the Sopranos filming locations and a three-hour NYC TV tour featuring multiple shows too. As you might imagine, it is being constantly updated. Recent additions to that itinerary include productions as diverse as Spider Man and the sitcom Modern Family.
Alan says the Sex And The City tour remains popular. “We take you to all the places where Carrie and her friends shopped, dined, got into fights and married,” he says. There is also a three-hour long classic movie tour. “It takes you to Breakfast at Tiffany’s and scenes from Woody Allen’s Manhattan. You’ll also see where Marilyn Monroe’s skirt flew up when she stood on the subway grid. You can relive your favourite TV shows and movies on this one,” says Alan
Some TV Shows like Friends were filmed in Hollywood but many of the shots of buildings from the start of scenes are real places in New York and are on the company’s tours. “We visit their apartment building and you see the outside. The inside was filmed in a lot in Hollywood,” he says.
If you’re travelling to New York City around Christmas time there is a special seasonal tour. “We have a great Holiday Lights and Movie Sites bus tour which highlights all of the Christmas movies that have been filmed in New York, like Elf, Scrooge and Home Alone 2. We also take you to the best window displays and you can see how New York sparkles over the holidays.”
You can find out more at onlocationtours.com.
The Midwest American state of Colorado has also put together a movie lovers’ itinerary. Jennifer Bartlett-Alpert says much of the tense thriller, The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson was filmed in the state. “It’s actually the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park,” she tells me. “It’s surrounded by very dramatic scenery. The author Stephen King lived in Boulder in Colorado at the time and was in the area during the autumn and stayed at the hotel. It had the same feeling that is conveyed in the film at the end of the season – everything was closing down. He had writer’s block for four months and got the idea for the book after some eerie experiences staying there.”
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels hit the ski slopes of Breckenridge in the film Dumb and Dumber. That’s also in Colorado and scenes from Thelma and Louise were filmed in a canyon outside the town of Gateway. In a mountainous area full of high passes and lakes you’ll also find a town called Creed. Here Johnny Depp filmed his recent film, the Lone Ranger movie.
If you’re a fan of westerns many were shot in Colorado too, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The train robbery scenes were filmed on the Durango and Silverton narrow gauge railway. “One of John Wayne’s big movies was filmed in Ridgeway,” says Jennifer. “Even today there is a there is a café called True Grit, which has memorabilia on the walls. It’s kind of fun,” she adds.
It’s possible to visit movie locations in Britain too. Brit Movie Tours has operated since 2009. Lewis Swan is a James Bond movie fan and enjoyed visiting filming sites himself before he launched the company to share the experience more widely.
“MI6 is the most recognisable and iconic location on our tours,” Lewis told me. “It’s featured heavily in the more recent James Bond films. It’s a place shrouded in real mystery as to what really goes on inside so I think people really do like to visit it. There is also a car park at Smithfield, which was used as the entrance to the new MI6 headquarters after their current building was blown up in the movie.”
Lewis’ company offers a range of TV and film tours that appeal to a wide fan base. Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey are some of the most popular itineraries. Americans love the British period drama and flock to Highclere Castle to see the seat of the Crawleys.
Lewis says he often has to rewind and pause while watching movies and television programmes in order to try and identify the precise filming locations. It can be quite a job – sometimes the stars can turn a street corner on screen and travel hundreds of miles in real life. “Typically for Harry Potter, when they filmed scenes in Hogwarts they would film a corridor in Lacock Abbey and the next minute they would be in Gloucester Cathedral or even Scotland,” he says.
The British romantic comedies are easier to feature on tours because their locations are recognisable places. “We start in Notting Hill and go around key locations for the film of the same name. Love Actually and Bridget Jones were also set in those areas. Then we go to the West End and along to Borough Market where Brigit Jones lived,” says Lewis.
There are also Emmerdale tours on offer in Yorkshire. One trip takes in the original village where they used to film the soap series until around twenty years ago. They’ve now built a closed set and a separate tour takes fans there, near Harewood House. That trip is popular with both Brits and Finns. “Emmerdale is really big in Finland,” says Lewis.
Many TV shows are filmed by the BBC in Cardiff too and that’s why there are Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sherlock tours operated by Lewis’ company around the Welsh capital.
You can find out more at britmovietours.com.