Stardust: Hollywood magic falls over Norwich
By Martin Barber
The cobbles and relaxed atmosphere of Norwich's historic Elm Hill have won a global audience with the release of Neil Gaiman's fantasy adventure Stardust, starring Claire Danes and newcomer Charlie Cox.
Charlie Cox & Sienna Miller in Stardust
Stardust, a 'fairy tale for adults' that begins with a falling star crashing into a magical kingdom has placed Norfolk on the silver screen.
The story, from best-selling author Neil Gaiman, stars Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes - and Elm Hill, Norwich.
In 2006, the historic location in the heart of the city, was transformed into a street in the mystical land of Stormhold for the film which was released in October 2007.
Regional film agency Screen East sourced the location and following an initial visit, the production team was so keen on the site that discussions on the potential transformation of the grade II listed buildings started straight away.
"We were so pleased when we stumbled across Elm Hill after scouring the length of the UK, and some European locations," said Stardust location manager Emma Pill.
"It is a magical street, providing the production with the exact requirements for the script... the residents and businesses of Elm Hill were very helpful and a joy to work with," she added.
Transforming Elm Hill
After consultation with Norwich City Council and other local agencies, the film company arrived to prepare the location - which included transforming the 14th century Britons Arms coffee house into Stormhold's hostelry, The Slaughtered Prince.
The Britons Arms gets a new look
"Elm Hill was selected as the perfect location to become a bustling street in the magical land of Stormhold due to its beautiful timber-framed buildings and old-fashioned cobbles," said Katie MacDonald, film liaison officer with Screen East.
"The production initially wanted to construct an arch at the bottom of Elm Hill as well as make aesthetic alterations to a number of the buildings, all of which are grade listed.
"Screen East set up an on-site meeting with the production and a number of representatives from the local council, highways, police and heritage trust in order to work out the practicalities and logistics of the filming.
"As it happened, the arch we see in the film was sourced from another location in Norfolk and computer-generated onto Elm Hill, so the arch construction was not necessary in the end.
"However, the production painted almost all of the buildings on the street and dressed a tea shop to become The Slaughtered Prince guest house that features in the film, all of which have now been reinstated to heritage specifications.
"The local authorities and residents were exceptionally helpful and pulled out all the stops in order to make a night-shoot that included over 300 extras possible on this small street," she added.
Stardust's storyline centres on a blazing star that has fallen from the sky. This star is no ordinary meteorite but a beautiful young woman whose tumble through the cosmos has instantly left her in peril – with her secret powers now chased after by an incredible array of seekers.
Michelle Pfeiffer as the witch Lamia
From a love-struck young villager (Charlie Cox) who needs the fallen star (Claire Danes) to win his beloved; to a ferociously wicked witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) determined to gain back her eternal youth; to a covetous prince who will stop at nothing to beat out the competition for his father's throne; to a supernatural series of spell-casters, goblins and even a flying pirate (Robert De Niro) – everyone the star encounters has an agenda, some good, some evil, yet they all desire just one thing: her heart.
The inspiration for the film began with best-selling author Neil Gaiman. In 1997 he published Stardust as a fairy story that unfolded in a four-book DC Comics mini-series.
When it was released a year later in book form, Stardust hit the bestseller lists and was named as one of the best novels of the year.
"I set out in the beginning to tell a story about a young man who goes after his heart's desire only to discover it isn't his heart's desire," said Neil Gaiman.
"I started with that one idea in my head and followed that all the way to the end – and was very proud when I got there that the story did exactly what I had set out for it to do," he added.
Norfolk at the movies
Over the years, Norfolk has been used as a location in some of the most popular titles to have hit both the silver and small screen.
From The Dambusters in 1955, which used locations around Holt, to Bond's Die Another Day in 2002, which transformed a location near Hunstanton into a Korean rice field - and due to shoot at Holkham, is Keira Knightley's latest film The Duchess.
On television, Dad's Army and 'Allo 'Allo were shot around Thetford and more recently Stephen Fry's TV hit Kingdom was filmed around Swaffham.
Letting the cameras roll in the county, is hugely beneficial to the local economy.
"Norfolk's local authorities, locations and businesses recognise the economic value of production, particularly from the larger budget movies such as Stardust," said Kerry Ixer, Screen East's head of locations.
Claire Danes (Yvaine) filming in Norwich
"Productions on this scale are extremely well organised. The crew was a good bunch of experienced professionals, so anyone who supports a shoot or offers their property as a location is likely to thoroughly enjoy the experience as well as receive a good financial reward.
"Film and television production was worth an estimated £25.8m to the regional economy in 2007/08 and £2.9m to Norfolk. It's therefore worth a lot of money.
Location, location, location
"Furthermore where a location which is open to the public appears in a popular film or television series, the owners can receive an increase in visitors from tourists seeking out filming locations - which research illustrates can go on for years," she added.
Screen East is always looking to hear from anyone who would like to register their property as a possible location.
"We receive over 3,000 enquiries a year from productions seeking all types of locations. If selected, the benefits from the location fees could mean that the extension you've always dreamed of could be just around the corner," said Kerry.
If you woud like to register a property with Screen East call 01923 495051 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Stardust goes on general release on Friday, 19 October, 2007.
Major motion pictures that have been shot in Norfolk include:
last updated: 15/05/2008 at 13:16
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