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Image of a helicopter flying over Trafalgar Square in Edge of Tomorrow

Heathrow Airport in Edge of Tomorrow

Date posted: 01.06.2014

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are currently kicking alien ass on a big screen near you in Edge of Tomorrow. And saving the world isn't the only feat the team behind the film pulled off - they also filmed at London's Heathrow Airport in the same year as the 2012 Olympics.

The world Cruise and Blunt's characters are fighting so hard to save was created from a range of studio and location shoots and it could not have been so brilliantly rendered without access to film at the airport, which acts as a makeshift army base. It is here that Cruise's Bill Cage is to wake up repeatedly on the same day: the day he dies.

First time for everything

Heathrow airport

It might be the location of Cage's terrifying Groundhog Day, but filming such a large-scale production on the airfield was a first for Heathrow. Luckily, location manager Sue Quinn could not have chosen a better time.

Broaching the idea of filming at the airport just a few months before the start of London 2012, you could have thought the aspiration to film there would prove to be a pipe dream. Instead, the success of the Olympics led to a proactive film policy and the team at Heathrow embraced the project.

It wasn't just the first large-scale production to film on the airfield. It was also the first to involve a helicopter circumventing the control tower. "As our first shoot, Edge of Tomorrow was a real challenge" comments Rachel Betts, Heathrow's Filming Location Manager, "and we had to be sure that at no point would the filming affect the airport operation".

But with months of intense planning between government departments, aviation industry regulators, National Aviation Service NATS, Heathrow and Warner Bros., ensuring the shoot went without hitch, it proved to be well worth it: "it was wonderful to be part of such a high-profile and visually exciting production," says Betts. "Heathrow looks amazing on screen and I think it shows what we can achieve".

Across the two-day shoot extras in military fatigues could be seen running around the airfield with replica weapons. "I honestly didn't think that we'd be able to achieve all we asked for" remarked Quinn. "But the team worked really hard to make it happen and it looks fantastic".

London looms large

"I've always really wanted to land a helicopter in Trafalgar Square" ā€“ Tom Cruise

Who would dare disappoint? Luckily with the support of a number of agencies, including members of Film London's London Filming Partnership and the British Film Commission, the production managed to pull off something never seen before ā€“ they were able to land a helicopter in Trafalgar Square. It was the first time this has ever been allowed for non-military event

It's not just Heathrow and Trafalgar Square that represent the capital on-screen in this long-awaited blockbuster. Alongside filming in the airport and the now famous coup of managing to land a chopper in Trafalgar Square and fly it around Big Ben, Quinn and her team made use of:

  • MOD main building
  • Whitehall Court
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Horseguards
  • Royal parks Mall
  • Coach and Horses Pub Clerkenwell

The team also shot at Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire and Director Doug Liman told journalists gathered for a preview of Edge of Tomorrow that shooting in England "was an extraordinary experience." 

Filming at Heathrow

From Love Actually to Gambit, Airport Live to the T-Mobile commercial, Heathrow has acted as an iconic backdrop for countless television and film productions. Recent outings include TAM's World Cup television commercial, Survivor, Our Kind of Traitor and the upcoming feature film version of the popular television series, Spooks: The Greater Good.

Heathrow comprises five terminals, each with a different style of architecture, allowing for a diverse range of shoots.

Reopened on 4 June, Terminal 2 is a stunning contemporary space of glass and stainless steel with a long escalator. It will become available for commercial filming shortly thereafter.

Filming on the airfield is also possible given sufficient notice.

To film at Heathrow please contact: Rachel Betts, Filming Location Manager

M: +44 (0)7713 077 292
E: rachel_betts@heathrow.com / filming@heathrow.com

Find details of notice periods and location fees and apply online at the Heathrow Airport media centre