Yes me hearties… for the last few days I’ve been watching a production team (Blackbeard Productions) work their amazing magic on the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. This is all for the fourth installment of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. You know what this means? Johnny’s in town! I have it on good authority that the scenes to be shot here will include both Depp and Penelope Cruz, which will be starting any day now (if it would just stop raining!)
On one of the boards it said that filming was due yesterday, but it seems they are running late with building the set, and make no mistake, it’s a VERY big set. Over the course of a few days they’ve completely taken over all the lawns building two separate areas from scratch and erecting a couple of tall scaffoldings covered with a blue-screen to block out views from the Thames (Canary Wharf, HSBC building etc) and the Maritime Museum opposite the main road. I’m guessing that the screens will be filled in with CGI later on. Anyway, here’s some photos I took of construction at various points in the day.
‘Construction in Progress’ – too right! The place was swarming with security and big, big cranes… I like the name though, ‘Blackbeard’. Very apt.
Set No.1 – This is supposed to act as a castle for the King of Spain, (heard it through the grapevine!). It looks very medieval. Not at all in keeping with the other buildings around. Opposite this is a lawn with rows of stables for horses and carriages.
And here comes some handsome carriages, but where are the horses? There were several of these in different shapes and sizes when I went to look on Monday. These ones arrived yesterday and were hauled over to a secure place on the right. Unfortunately, I can’t tell the difference between a ‘hansom’, ‘chaise’ and a ‘trap’, so if anyone knows please post the answer!
Set No.2 – This is a very elaborate set that I’m guessing will be used as part of the ‘London’ scenes as it’s style is similar to the surrounding buildings. There was some writing on one of the fake walls that said ‘Windsor Facade – Carrigan Building’. I wonder what that meant? Oh, and those pillars arrived yesterday morning and despite being props were very heavy! Can you spot the guy on the ladder giving the wall a ‘wet’ effect?
Set No.2 (front) – Here you can appreciate just how well they’ve imitated the Baroque architecture of Greenwich. It was raining horribly yesterday. I felt sorry for the crew who had to work in these conditions, but as they say, the show must go on!
Some cheerful, royal banners to add a bit of colour to the gloomy London day. It’s not very clear, but the emblem ‘GR’ is written on each flag. If you look carefully, you can spot the giant bluescreen that blocks the view of the Thames. There was an identical one just opposite that is supposed to block the sight of cars going by on the main road.
I also saw some production crew move into the Painted Hall that’s located in the King William building. They took out all the tables and chairs, covered the floor with soft mats and had just started building something at the back of the Hall.
I’ve seen filming being done at Greenwich before, but not on this scale. A few years ago Nicole Kidman was here for ‘The Golden Compass’. Again, they were using the Painted Hall for some of the Oxford scenes (Lyra’s Oxford, not our Oxford) and before that the Jackie Chan film ‘Shanghai Knights’ had a few market scenes with the buildings as a backdrop. Parts of ‘The Wolfman’ with Benicio Del Toro also used Greenwich’s spooky, old-fashioned look for when Lawrence Talbot goes all Lycan and wrecks havoc on London.
Greenwich isn’t just a place for films though. It has its own fascinating history dating back to the 1600’s. It is a World Heritage Site and was until recently still used as a Naval College before it became a university. It has its roots firmly in the Navy and Maritime exploration. The buildings themselves were built in many stages, having passed through the hands of great architects like Sir Christopher Wren, Sir John Vanbrugh, James ‘Athenian’ Stuart and Nicholas Hawksmoor. Generations of the Royal family have lived here, and were even born here. King Henry VIII favourite place to be was the Greenwich Palace and Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary I were both born there.
So, considering all this, I think using Greenwich for the filming of ‘POTC:4’ is perfect. What better place than an Old Naval College. I mean, real pirates used to dock here on their ships. Can’t wait to see how it all looks on the big screen.