£200m bid to revamp Pinewood

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The Independent Culture

Leading figures in the British film industry have backed plans for a major redevelopment of the world-famous Pinewood Studios, the home of movies from James Bond to Harry Potter.

Its owners hope the £200m "Project Pinewood" will revitalise the ailing industry and lure back British film-makers after a recent exodus to eastern Europe.

If planning permission is granted, a 100-acre green belt site next to the existing lot at Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire will be used to create a new hub of studio facilities, served by a new Crossrail station at Iver.

The main feature of the development is a number of zones modelled on popular film backdrops, many of which will be visible from the M25. These will include a replica medieval castle, a Venetian canal, a Los Angeles high school, a Roman amphitheatre and street scenes from New York, London, Boston and Chicago.

The project, unveiled to the Stock Exchange yesterday by the owner Pinewood Shepperton, features the world's first purpose-built "sustainable community" of 2,000 homes for film and television workers, which Pinewood aims to make "as green as possible".

Influential cinema figures voiced their backing for the scheme. Ridley Scott, the director of Gladiator, said: "This is a unique opportunity for film-makers and designers to have input into the strategic and architectural development of the UK's creative hub.

"I am tremendously excited to see the opportunities of this project realised on screen."

Lord Puttnam, who produced the Oscar-winning Chariots Of Fire, said the project had potential "to be genuinely transformational through the unique opportunities and resources it offers to the next generation of media professionals".

Pinewood found fame in the 1950s and 60s as the home of the James Bond and Carry On films. More recently, it has been used to shoot films including The Bourne Ultimatum, Casino Royale and The Da Vinci Code, as well as television hits such as Ricky Gervais's Extras.

Pinewood purchased Shepperton Studios in 2001 and the two complexes have a combined credit list of almost 1,500 movies. Pinewood already has 20 film stages, two digital television studios, a unique underwater stage and the largest stage in Europe.

However, many recent British productions have been shot in eastern Europe because it is cheaper there. Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain was made in Romania, Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist in Prague, and the BBC's Robin Hood series was filmed in Hungary.

Richard Curtis, whose cinema hits include Notting Hill, said Project Pinewood could boost British film-making, adding: "This is a tremendous project, particularly for people who don't want to spend most of their lives in eastern Europe."

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