Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel in Green Zone
Date posted: 01.03.2010
Oscar-winner Matt Damon (The Bourne franchise, The Informant!) and internationally renowned director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93) re-team once again for the big screen. Green Zone, an electrifying thriller that shot on location in Spain, Morocco and England, hits cinemas across the UK on 10 March.
Based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book – “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone” - the film looks at the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. In drawing on the author’s real life experience as Baghdad bureau chief of the Washington Post, the film centres on the chaotic attempts of the Americans to set up a provisional government in the area around Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's palace.
As he contemplated wading into the world of Green Zone, director/producer Paul Greengrass knew he wanted his next film to grab be drenched in the authentic details of a war zone. “This is not a movie about the war in Iraq,” the film-maker emphasizes. “It’s a thriller set in Iraq, and that’s a very different proposition.” The director and production designer Dominic Watkins set about creating the look and feel of Baghdad in 2003. London, already established as an adaptable and responsive city, seemed a natural choice for a ‘location double’.
For the shoot, which took place in early 2008, The Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel was transformed into a Baghdad hotel. Location manager, Jamie Lengyel, reasons: “With its eighties styling, extensive lobby areas and endless corridors, the Renaissance Heathrow provided the perfect template – with the scale and flexibility to accommodate both a dressed set for a large film crew and the usual everyday busyness of a Heathrow hotel”.
As an added challenge, the hotel was undergoing major refurbishment to the public areas – including the lobby, bar and restaurant – at the time of filming. However, the production offered numerous solutions, rather than seeing this as a problem. Jennifer Hardy, PR & Marketing Manager of the hotel, explains: “Many inventive requests were made, including taking over a floor of bedrooms with no guests, a night time shoot during the day, shutting down three of the four guest lifts, and a completely different lobby and bar.” Jamie adds: “Our filming also coincided with the Terminal 5 baggage crisis, which swamped all the Heathrow hotels with bemused cabin crews and transit passengers - including 300 Argentinean United Nation Peacekeepers, seemingly checking into our Baghdad hotel!”
Five solid days of preparation, filming and breakdown for Green Zone resulted in the use of 50 rooms for four nights, including three banqueting function rooms. With parking facilities at hand, the hotel was even utilised as a unit base. And all of this took place whilst The Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel continued with its renovation, as well as accommodating regular guests, 275 delayed passengers, 300 United Nations’ soldiers and 12 broadcasters - not to mention the 150 film crew and 120 film extras. Jamie remained impressed throughout the length of the shoot – “Jennifer Hardy and the Renaissance team provided exceptional support and a positive can-do reaction to the many demands of a film of this scale, re-allocating entire corridors of bedrooms and setting up alternative receptions.”
Jennifer concludes: “Jamie Lengyel was totally professional throughout, from the first recce to the final breakdown meeting. The event was a huge success and proved to be a major talking point between hotel staff and guests.” If you would like to find out more about filming at The Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel contact Jennifer Hardy on 020 8564 6197 or email Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.