Hollywood big shots return to British studios: Pinewood and Shepperton end years of decline

FOR THE first time in years, Britain's two major surviving film studios - Pinewood and Shepperton - are busy making a succession of feature films for Hollywood companies with some of the world's most successful stars.

Shooting has just begun on Mary Reilly, starring Julia Roberts, at Pinewood. Next month, filming will get under way on Judge Dredd, with Sylvester Stallone, at Shepperton.

Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein, with Robert DeNiro and Helena Bonham Carter in the cast, is in post-production at Shepperton, and First Knight, starring Sean Connery and Richard Gere, is in pre-production at Pinewood.

Only a few years ago Pinewood and Shepperton found it very hard to compete with other European studios and persuade American companies to film in Britain. With an exchange rate of dollars 2 to the pound, Britain had become too expensive.

The decline in the number of Hollywood films being made here was also hastened by the removal in 1985 of 100 per cent capital allowances for production companies filming in the UK and the end of the levy on cinema takings which used to help fund British films. There were fears that top British directors and designers were being lost to Hollywood and that cameramen and technicians were leaving the industry.

Now the Americans are back, and there are hopes that they are here to stay.

Denis Carrigan, managing director of Shepperton Studios, believes big feature films are returning to this country, thanks to the favourable (and stable) pound/dollar exchange rate of dollars 1.50 to the pound - making American films shot in Britain 25 per cent cheaper than in the late Eighties. Costs are also lower here, regardless of the exchange rate, he says.

Steve Jaggs, managing director of Pinewood Studios, says the upturn began last summer. He points out that many of the pictures being shot here - for example, Interview with a Vampire starring Tom Cruise, as well as Mary Reilly and First Knight - are period pieces requiring British or European locations. A third factor, both men say, is the excellence of the creative, technical and special- effects talent in this country.

Oscar Moore, editor of Screen International, says the fact that English is the lingua franca also features in American producers' preference for London. British actors are also fashionable and a valuable asset in cameo and support roles.

Roy Lockett, deputy general secretary of Bectu, the union representing 38,000 technicians, film workers and directors, says that Britain still has one of the 'best, richest, most extensive, comprehensive skills base in Europe, probably in the world' and excellent film-processing laboratories and dubbing suites.

He suggests that damage to studios caused by the recent Los Angeles earthquake may also have reduced the number of films that can be made in Hollywood.

Mr Lockett said: 'There is a revival of some kind, but in a sense there would have to be, wouldn't there? Investment in features last year was only pounds 40m - the lowest figure for many a year for British features.'

Andrew Patrick, chief executive of the British Film Commission, says his organisation - formed to promote Britain as a film-making venue - has played a part in attracting foreign film companies. But he warns that the movie-making revival is still fragile - 'The exchange rate is a fickle beast and can just as easily work against us as for us in the future' - and says the secret of fostering a viable film industry is to offer foreign movie-makers tax incentives like those of France, Germany and Ireland.

He and others also recommend imposing a special levy on the British revenue of major Hollywood studios to set up a production fund to finance future British films.

Earlier this year the British film industry was given a considerable jolt by Mel Gibson's decision to move the pounds 35m medieval epic Braveheart from Shepperton to Ardmore Studios near Dublin to take advantage of Irish tax incentives and the government's offer of 1,600 members of the Irish army as extras.

Mr Moore said: 'We are now most heavily in competition with Ireland. In terms of attracting productions, Ireland is easily winning. Fortunately for us it only has one studio and not a huge crew pool, so there's a point at which Ireland becomes saturated. It is booked up for the next 18 months.'

Since the introduction of Ireland's tax incentives to visiting film-makers a year ago, the total amount spent on shooting feature films there has trebled, from pounds 31.4m to pounds 97.1m. Eleven feature films are being made in the Republic this year.

Many think there is a lesson here for the British government.

Julia Roberts profile, page 17



Mary Reilly (TriStar Pictures) starring Julia Roberts, John Malkovich and Glenn Close. Shooting started last week. It is based on the story of Jekyll and Hyde. Director: Stephen Frears (British). Producer: Norma Heyman (British).

First Knight (Columbia) starring Sean Connery and Richard Gere. The legend of King Arthur. In pre-production. Director: Jerry Zucker (US). Producer: Hunt Lowry (US). Shooting starts at the end of July.


Frankenstein (Zoetrope/ TriStar Pictures, American) starring Robert DeNiro, Kenneth Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter. Producer: Fred Fuchs (US). Director: Kenneth Branagh (UK). In post- production.

Judge Dredd (Cinergi Productions NV), starring Sylvester Stallone. Director: Danny Cannon (British), Producer: Andy Vajna (US). Filming starts at the end of July.

(Photograph omitted)

Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
People walk through Autumn leaves in St James's Park yesterday
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits