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Summer in the City

Date posted: 07.07.2010

Calling all patriotic superheroes, pirates of dubious scruples and fantastic French tales - this summer the capital, and its world-class studios, are first choice for Hollywood studios and veteran film-makers, including four multi-million budget films sure to become headline grabbers of the future.

Over the coming months, Scorsese's Hugo Cabret, currently in production in the capital, will go 'shoulder-to-shoulder' with Captain America: The First Avenger, the film remake of the Marvel comic - followed closely by the fourth instalments of the high-grossing franchises X-Men and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The attractiveness of the capital and its proximity to major studios, coupled with a competitive tax incentive, state-of-the-art facilities and highly skilled crew, makes London a particularly enticing option. For example, in the past two years alone, Walt Disney has shot Jake Gyllenhaal's actioner Prince of Persia and the upcoming John Carter of Mars in the city.

's Mean Streets

Last week Martin Scorsese's latest feature, Hugo Cabret, started production in London. The film, a live-action adventure shot in 3D, is based on the New York Times bestseller by Brian Selznick, 'The Invention of Hugo Cabret'. It is Scorsese's first film shot in 3D and stars Sir Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island), Sacha Baron Cohen (Bruno) and Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) as the young Hugo.

Oscar-winning Scorsese, who is also currently involved in a biopic of Frank Sinatra, is famed for his numerous depictions of his native New York, where most of his works are set and shot. The choice of London as a location for Hugo Cabret, however, is not a first in Scorsese's career - he was a producer on period drama The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt which shot in the capital in 2007.

Hugo Cabret
will film largely in the UK with locations and sets depicting 1930s Paris, where Selznick's magical tale is set. The plot follows an orphan who leads a furtive life in a train station and gets wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and a robot. The production is confirmed to use locations in London and Shepperton Studios, as well as filming some scenes in Paris.

Scheduled to release in the US in December 2011, the film is produced by GK Films, the company behind The Young Victoria and upcoming drama London Boulevard, starring Keira Knightley which also shot in the capital last year.

God Save... The President

Captain America: The First Avenger
, will be the latest celluloid appearance of the revered Marvel character and will be directed by Joe Johnston (The Wolfman). Although originally planned to shoot in LA, economic pressures and a storyline heavily set in Europe made the production decide to move the shoot to London which proved more cost effective.

Starring Chris Evans (4: Rise of the Silver Surfer) as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, the film shows the origins of the superhero, who gained his powers following a top secret government experiment. The First Avenger also stars Dominic Cooper (An Education) and Samuel L. Jackson, who resumes the role of ex CIA agent Nick Fury - a regular presence on a number of Marvel comics and which L. Jackson already played in Iron Man 2.

The film, which will start shooting in the capital later this month, is expected to include a number of scenes featuring key London landmarks. Marvel did consider undertaking the stage work in LA with only location shooting taking place in London, however it was decided it made more sense to utilise the studio facilities in and around the capital rather than splitting the production either side of the Atlantic.

The favourable tax incentives in the UK were also sited by Marvel Studios co-President Louis D'Esposito as a further reason to move the production abroad. Asked about the Studio's longer term strategy in a recent interview for the LA Times, D'Esposito offered that "these are tough financial times right now that could pressure us to look at other locations'', which could see more superheroes landing in the English capital.

Lucky Number Four

Alongside luring two American icons temporarily away from their homeland, London is also preparing to host the latest instalments of two of the highest earning film franchises of recent years, the fourth 'episodes' of aquatic adventure Pirates of the Caribbean and superhero epic X-Men.

X-Men: First Class
is the prequel to the X-Men franchise, which is planned to shoot in London later in the summer. Directed by Kick-Ass helmer, Londoner Matthew Vaughn, the fourth adventure of the X-Men focuses on the time before Charles Xavier (played by James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) became fierce enemies Professor X and Magneto.

With producers Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects), who also directed the first two instalments, and Lauren Shuler Donner - the franchise's regular producer - supporting Vaughn, the film is expected to shoot in the capital in August and complete post-production swiftly to meet its planned US release on 3 June 2011. A fifth instalment, X-Men Origins: Magneto, is already in development.

Finally, hardly superheroes but more survivors, the most infamous buccaneers of recent times will also be in the capital for their fourth adventure.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
is producer Jerry Bruckenheimer's 26th film for Disney. Directed by Rob Marshall (Nine), the fourth Pirates follows the immortal Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) embarking on a quest to find the fountain of youth, this time confronted by Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and Angelica (Penélope Cruz), a mysterious woman from Sparrow's past.

In addition to shooting at Pinewood and London, some scenes are confirmed to film in Hawaii.

London has played host to numerous studio productions over the years, however it is rare that such a high number of major blockbusters take residence in the capital in the same season. Alongside the unusually good weather, it's another great reason to celebrate an exceptional British summer in the city.

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