Craxton Studios in The Theory of Everything
Date posted: 01.01.2015
Based on Jane Wilde Hawking's 2007 memoir 'Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen', The Theory of Everything charts Stephen Hawking's life from his early days at Cambridge, falling in love and becoming a world-renowned physicist. Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables) makes a highly-acclaimed turn as Stephen Hawking while Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman) plays Jane. The site of their first meeting and our Location of the Month? London's Craxton Studios, which doubles for a Cambridge interior.
Against All Odds
Aged just 21, promising physicist Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with the degenerative ALS disease and given only a few years to live. He went on to pose groundbreaking scientific theories, write the international bestseller 'A Brief History of Time', marry twice and have three children. At 72 he remains one of the most respected scientists working today.
His first wife Jane had a lasting impact on his life, encouraging him to keep going against all odds. The challenge of capturing the first meeting between Jane and Stephen on the big screen - and doing it justice - was not lost on the production team: the location had to be just right.
The production needed a party room to double as a Cambridge interior, where Jane and Stephen first met. As Location Manager Camilla Stephenson explains, the location needed to "place [the scene] in a university society house rather than someone's home."
The large studio at Craxton Studios turned out to be the perfect backdrop. It allowed for the much-needed period dressing, something that also struck location owner Jane Craxton, who commented that, "we were deeply impressed by the authentic 'distressing' of our house."
Stephenson was also pleased: "The location was the perfect solution to our dilemma in finding a location for a student party in the early 1960s Cambridge." It had enough space to give an intimate feel without being a conventional house and could provide the necessary period features.
"We enjoyed seeing 60 extras come in for the party," said Craxton, pointing out that it wasn't just the studio that was perfectly dressed, with the women in "tight-waisted dresses and beehive hairstyles and the boys in jackets and ties."
Chickens, Vegetables and Bikes...
As well as the large studio used for the party venue, the crew also made use of Craxton Studios' study, hall and staircase. Outside, temporary railings were erected to double for an exterior Cambridge scene. "It was great fun seeing Eddie Redmayne and his Cambridge friend careering round the corner on their bikes, into our road and throwing them against the railings" recalls Craxton., "
The study was converted into a dining room, which doubled for Stephen's family home in St Albans. Lunch scenes were filmed here, and it is where Stephen's father tells Jane about his diagnosis.
A false wall was erected for these scenes, and the furniture you see is a mixture of that already at the location and props provided by the production.
Putting a convincing lunch on the table was more complicated: the production had to cook several chickens in the church next door, reheating vegetables in the microwave so that they were steaming for each take. The church provided a great space for a unit base and a general hold area with kitchen facilities. Stephenson was grateful for this additional space and its facilities, saying "[it] was the church next door who allowed us to set up our crowd logistics and catering for a few days."
Stephenson praised the location team, in particular Jane Craxton. "[Jane] bent over backwards to accommodate us," she enthuses. This was particularly true of negotiating space around scheduling, as Craxton Studios is a very popular and busy rehearsal and performance space. Craxton also had a very positive experience in accommodating the shoot, saying "We liked the crew and thought they were very friendly and helpful."
She was "very impressed with the authentic period look the art department created in our house to take it back to 1962," thus highlighting the location's visual flexibility.
History of the location:
Craxton Studios is a large Edwardian property with a reasonably-sized studio area built in Art Nouveau style but somewhat modified.
It has a wonderful history and many interesting features. This unique house, 'Atelier', 14 Kidderpore Avenue, was designed and built in 1901 by the artist George Hillyard Swinstead for his family and as his art studio. Bought by Harold Craxton and his wife Essie in 1945 it has stayed in the Craxton family since.
Main features of the studios include:
- Main Studio:
A 33ft x 23ft double-height, wood-panelled room with balcony and sprung maple floor opening onto a quiet, secluded garden. It is equipped with a Blüthner concert grand piano, and is suitable for up to 32 orchestral players or 40-piece choir.
- Second Studio:
An 18ft x 12ft second floor room with French windows opening onto a balcony, equipped with a Steinway grand piano and suitable for up to six orchestral players.
- Drawing Room:
A 19ft x 15ft ground floor room with high ceiling and full-height bay window suitable for up to 12 people seated boardroom-style or 11 classroom-style.
- Waiting/refreshment room
- Music stands and conductors' stands
- On-street car parking:
Pay and display Monday-Friday, 12.30-2.30pm only. Free at all other times
- Close to a variety of local eateries
Other productions that have shot at Craxton House include Mortdecai and Mr Holmes, as well as television productions such as New Tricks, Silent Witness, Endeavour and Lord Lucan.
To film at this location please contact:
Jane Craxton: 020 7435 2965 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Kidderpore Avenue via the Camden Film Office and St Luke's Church are very receptive and can offer additional catering space, crowd holding area etc. To use this space please contact:
Bonnie Farlow, St Luke's Church, 12 Kidderpore Avenue, London NW3 7SU