A Capital Release for Eastwood's Hereafter
Date posted: 26.01.2011
Hereafter, the latest feature from Oscar®-winning director and film-making legend Clint Eastwood releases in the UK this week, marking the first time the director has shot in the UK since making White Hunter, Black Heart in 1989.
Directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Oscar®-nominated Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon), Hereafter tells the story of three people who are haunted by mortality in different ways. George (Matt Damon) is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife; on the other side of the world Marie, a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality; while Marcus, a schoolboy from a London council estate, loses his twin brother in a road accident is in desperate need of answers. Each are in search of the truth which sees their lives intersect and forever changed by what they believe exists in the hereafter.
Hereafter shot on location all over the world, from London and Paris to San Francisco and Maui. The production did not always intend to devote such a big chunk of the shoot to London, but Eastwood and his producer Robert Lorenz were won over when Film London and the UK Film Council helped arrange a tour of locations around the city.
"Clint stopped off on his way back from South Africa after shooting Invictus," says Film London's Chief Executive Adrian Wootton. "Because of the subject matter, they wanted to shoot here but they needed to know if they could really find the locations. We gave them a discreet tour and it led to them doing several weeks more location shooting than they originally envisaged."
Because the action would be interconnected, Eastwood worked with production designer James J. Murakami to ensure the audience would know where they were at any given time. "Clint wanted each story to have really unique, identifiable settings", Murakami explains. "So, it was important to capture the modern, sleek look of Paris, and the middle class feel of San Francisco, and then the distressed look of Marcus's London. The places in many ways mirrored the character whose story is being told."
In London, location manager Martin Joy secured permission to shoot the flat Marcus and Jason share with their mother at the city's Heygate Estate, in Elephant and Castle. The 1970s estate has gained a new lease of life over the past few years as one of the capital's most popular filming locations. Since 2007 almost two shoots a month have taken place there, including Harry Brown starring Michael Caine. The severe lines of the rectangular blocks of flats, edged in crumbling, concrete balconies, are telegenic shorthand for gritty, urban life, and thus a fitting home for Marcus as a young boy from a poor working-class background. Eastwood was one of the last directors to shoot at the infamous Heygate Estate as the area is currently benefiting from one of the largest regeneration schemes in Europe.
As the stories of the three main characters converge, the visual landscape of London moves from Marcus's urban surroundings to a gentler, Victorian environment - including the vast Alexandra Palace, which became the site for the London Book Fair. To complete the setting, the crew assembled publishers to set up booths within the spectacular landmark, along with 275 extras to act as fair attendees, salespeople from the different publishing houses and authors.
Another particularly striking London location used in the film was the Charles Dickens Museum, the only surviving London home of the Victorian novelist and where he wrote 'Oliver Twist' and 'Nicholas Nickleby', two of his most famous books. The museum gave the crew access to to shoot a sequence which sees Damon's character joining group touring the narrow house. "They were very cooperative about having us in there", says Eastwood. "And we were very respectful in taking our time to not damage anything."
It is at the Museum that George glimpses the famous portrait called 'Dickens's Dream', which depicts the author asleep at his desk with characters from his novels floating in the air around him. "When George sees it, he realizes that he's connected to this guy who has got all of these ghosts in his head, who are there with him all the time" says Damon, explaining the relevance of the painting in the film. He continues "it was pretty amazing to be able to do that scene in the actual place with the actual portrait."
Additional locations across the capital included the scenic Victorian arcade at Leadenhall Market, and Conway Hall, which stood in for the Centre for Psychic Advancement, as well as the Mayfair Hotel and Liverpool Street Station. The production also made use of the underwater stage at Pinewood Studios.
"The London portion of our production was a completely positive experience," says Lorenz. "Local officials and businesses were straightforward and receptive throughout. The biggest challenge came in choosing from among the many qualified crew available to us. We're looking forward to returning to London with future projects."