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January

Image of Hugh Jackman stars as Jean Valjean in Universal Pictures' Les Miserables (2012)

St. Mary's Chapel in Les Misérables

Date posted: 01.01.2013

Based on the classic French novel by Victor Hugo, a new, hotly anticipated film adaptation of Les Misérables hits the big screen on 11 January. An Alist ensemble cast is led by Hugh Jackman (X-Men) and Russell Crowe (Gladiator), alongside Anna Hathaway (Becoming Jane), Amanda Seyfried (Red Riding Hood) and Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech).

The film tells the story of Jean Valjean (Jackman), a former prisoner who becomes Mayor of a town in France. Agreeing to take care of Cosette (Seyfried), the illegitimate daughter of Fantine (Hathaway), he must avoid being captured again by Javert (Crowe), a police inspector.

Set in 19th Century France, the hugely ambitious period costume drama was filmed almost exclusively in London and the South East. The production's location team worked hard to ensure all elements, especially interior locations, worked seamlessly with exterior shots taken in the South of France.

When scouting for locations for the interior of the Bishop's Chapel in Digne, the production needed something which would reflect a rundown richness, with an essence of France.

St Mary's Chapel in Westminster proved to be the perfect location, fulfilling the requirements for the shoot, as well being large enough to hold the film's sizeable crew.

"The crypt was perfect" said Camilla Stephenson, the Location Manager. Stephenson goes onto explain that "once we had seen the location, we decided that the Bishop - who lives a very humble life - should be housed literally adjacent", this was achieved through a set build at the location. The production team transformed the crypt, and even brought a cow and mule on set.

Father Henrey Everett at the Chapel talks about the challenges of having animals in the crypt, "long before filming took place, plans were in hand to achieve this, involving covering up a staircase with a wooden ramp. Then, a few days before, a cow and a mule were brought over to be tested on the ramp". When the shoot overran by a day, the Chapel was accommodating in allowing the animals to stay overnight. 

Stephenson praises the efforts by all involved for a successful shoot. "Westminster, the church, the school and the local residents were very supportive in allowing us such flexibility and access to park."

From the direction of Little Venice, the red and white spire of St Mary Magdalene is a landmark in Paddington. The church has a large brick and stone nave and a raised, very elaborate, strong Gothic sanctuary with lots of beautiful stained glass. Underneath there is a large austere crypt, which has been used in films as a medieval castle and cabinet war rooms. In addition, there is an exquisite chapel with a carved, gilded alter and screen with a dark blue ceiling with gold stars. In one building, three very different atmospheres are evoked.

The church has been used widely for filming including The End of the Affair and The Blue Lamp as well as in TV programmes such as Miss Marple, Waking the Dead, and Jonathan Creek. It has also featured in music videos for Lesley Garret and Fat Boy Slim.

To film in St Mary's Chapel, contact Lesley Chakravoty on:
07772 677 336 / lchakravorty@btopenworld.com

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