2024-02-22T17:35:00Z By Keeley Rodgers
Several major attractions are being showcased on the big screen as locations used in Sir Ridley Scott’s new epic film Napoleon.
1. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
From intense battle scenes within the Blenheim Estate and external grounds, as well as romantic ones within the palace’s Great Hall and Library, Main Saloon and the State Rooms, the UNESCO World Heritage Site was used as a location for many of the key scenes in the film by Apple Original Films and Sony Pictures.
Directed by Ridley Scott, who also serves as one of the producers, and written by David Scarpa, the film is based on the true story of Napoleon Bonaparte, focusing on the French leader’s rise to prominence and power.
Heather Carter, managing director at Blenheim Palace said: “We were delighted to have welcomed Sir Ridley Scott and his team and are honoured that Blenheim Palace is featured as a backdrop for what we know will be a hugely popular film.
“Not only is it a great opportunity for people to see the beautiful palace and its grounds, which the whole team work so hard to preserve in such a unique setting, but filming like this helps provide vital income for our charity which is dedicated to funding important ongoing restoration projects and community initiatives such as our ongoing apprenticeship scheme.”
Group idea: the palace’s Lights, Camera, Action! Trail goes behind the scenes of some of the most famous blockbusters which have used Blenheim Palace as a location - from Harry Potter and James Bond, to The BFG and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.
2. Lincoln Cathedral
Proving its ‘star’ pulling power, the magnificent 950-year-old cathedral plays host to the lavish crowning of Napoleon as Emperor of France.
No stranger to top movie billing, this time Lincoln Cathedral stands in for Notre Dame in Paris and is where one of the movie trailer’s key scenes, featuring the coronation, was filmed in March 2022.
Hundreds of cast and crew arrived in the city for the week-long set-up and two days of filming, transforming the cathedral into a Napoleonic set for the stylish biopic.
Focussing on the man who rose from military general to Emperor of France, the movie also revolves around his tumultuous relationship with the woman who became his wife, Joséphine, played by Vanessa Kirby.
Both stars, resplendent in their French finery, along with hundreds of soldiers and nobility, portrayed the historic moment when Bonaparte placed the crown on his own head.
Lincoln Cathedral has previously doubled as Westminster Abbey for scenes involving Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code, and it provided the backdrop for another coronation, that of Queen Victoria in The Young Victoria with Emily Blunt, as well as for Netflix production The King with Timothée Chalamet.
Group idea: tie in a visit to Lincoln Cathedral with a visit to Lincoln Castle which is a few steps away. The castle has its own TV claim to fame, being a filming location for the third series of Downton Abbey in 2012, when the castle’s Victorian prison stood-in for York Prison. Find out more at www.visitlincolnshire.com
3. Petworth House and Park, West Sussex
With its grand state rooms, magnificent staircases and French style interiors, the National Trust’s Petworth House proved to be an ideal location for several scenes in Napoleon.
After two weeks of preparation, filming took place over two days at Petworth House in March 2022, with 13 of the principle cast members on set, including Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby, and 120 supporting artists and 200 crew. It was by far the biggest production ever to take place at Petworth.
The pivotal Victim’s Ball scene where Napoleon meets Josephine for the first time was filmed in the Beauty Room, Marble Hall, Carved Room, Little Dining Room and Grand Staircase. The Red Room and Square Dining Room were also filmed in the background of these scenes, filled with dozens of extras to add depth to the frame.
Visitor operations and experience manager Sue Rhodes describes being on set for this scene: “It was astonishing to see the Victim’s Ball being filmed. Part of it was done in one shot, with the camera moving through many rooms, all dressed for the period and atmospherically lit. The house looked gorgeous, much as it would have when it hosted balls and events like this hundreds of years ago.”
The Square Dining Room doubled for artist Jacques-Louis David’s studio where Napoleon’s coronation portrait was painted, and the Marble Hall was used for a meeting between Napoleon and his generals, which can be glimpsed in the film’s trailer.
“Despite the challenges of such a huge production” Sue Rhodes added, “it was a fascinating experience, and the cast and crew were incredible. So professional, and very respectful of the house. Ridley Scott was particularly impressed with our art collection!”
Group idea: take your members to marvel at the interiors of Petworth House which feature its world-renowned art collection. There’s coach parking in the main visitor car park and free fam visits available for group leaders.
4. Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
The Colonnades of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich were turned into the revolutionary streets of Paris and the Painted Hall into a scene of military confrontation in Napoleon.
There are some interesting links referenced by the team including the fact that Napoleon’s nemesis, Admiral Lord Nelson, visited the Royal Hospital Greenwich (as it was called then) many times over the years, but notably it was here that his body was brought after the Battle of Trafalgar for a ceremonial lying-in-state. Over the course of three days in January 1806, it was said that up to 100,000 people descended upon Greenwich to pay their respects.
The World Heritage Site is well-known for being an iconic filming location over the years. Its grounds have been transformed into the sets and backdrops for some major films in recent years including Les Misérables, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Oscar winning The King’s Speech, Thor II: Dark World, James Bond’s Skyfall and Netflix’s The Crown and Enola Holmes.
Its 18th century buildings offer stunning architecture, some of the best views in London, and have doubled for London, Berlin, and Paris through the ages.
Group idea: GTOs can book onto one of the Blockbuster Film Tours which take visitors on a journey through 90 years of filming including inside the incredible Painted Hall. Guides reveal the tricks of the trade and share behind-the-scenes tales.