Celebrating Lucasfilm’s 50th Anniversary: A Stormtrooper Parade at Elstree Studios
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This year American production company, Lucasfilm, celebrates its 50th Anniversary having been founded by visionary filmmaker, George Lucas, in 1971. Lucasfilm is home to some of the world’s favourite film franchises including Star Wars and Indiana Jones as well as other popular films and television shows.
The first three Star Wars films (Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi) as well as the first three Indiana Jones films (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade) were all filmed at Elstree Studios including films Willow and Labyrinth. George Lucas’ successful time at Elstree Studios in the 1980s, as well as his support for the ‘Save Our Studios’ Campaign in the 1990s, lead to the naming of the ‘George Lucas Stages 1 & 2’, which were opened by HRH Prince Charles in 1999.
This weekend, Elstree Studios partnered with the UK Garrison, a division of the 501st Legion which is an all-volunteer organisation bringing together Star Wars costume enthusiasts, to host a flag parade in celebration of the 50th Anniversary. ‘Darth Vader’, ‘Krennic’ and over 20 Stormtroopers in various costume varieties were “welcomed” to the Elstree Studios Lot by Managing Director of Elstree Studios, Roger Morris, who – as a Jedi Knight – ensured that they were kept in order.
The Star Wars flag parade was livestreamed to raise money for Lucasfilm’s chosen charity, FIRST. FIRST aims to engage young people in STEM Education and to encourage the next generation of Science and Technology innovators in over 100 countries around the world.
Roger Morris said: “Elstree Studios is proud to have been the original home of Star Wars – such an important part of our legacy. We welcome this initiative to support education by Lucasfilm and the Star Wars support groups such as 501st Legion. We hope to do more work with them to raise the profile of the charitable work they do.”
The video link is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAzsewIvDAk
Donations can be made to FIRST here: https://bit.ly/501stCelebrates
Elstree Studios congratulates ‘The Crown’ for their 4 Golden Globe wins
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28th February 2021’s Golden Globes Awards were a huge success for Netflix and Sony Left Bank Pictures’ ‘The Crown’. The Drama following the British Royal Family won: Best Drama Series, Best Television Actress in a Drama Series for Emma Corrin, Best Actor in a Drama Series for Josh O’Connor and Best Supporting Actress (Drama) for Gillian Anderson.
‘The Crown’ released its fourth series on Netflix in November 2020, introducing new characters Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) and Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) to the rest of the cast.
Elstree Studios is incredibly proud to be ‘The Crown’s production base, with impressive Buckingham Palace and Downing Street sets, Costume, Props and other creative departments all working on site. Mark Raggett is Supervising Art Director on ‘The Crown’, he said: “We started work on ‘The Crown’ at Elstree Studios in late 2014… The stages [at Elstree Studios] have provided us with permanent space for the interior of Downing Street (cabinet rooms etc.) and the living quarters of the Palace, both upstairs and down. We often spill onto other stages with sets which vary from the Interior of the Britannia, various newspaper offices and the myriad of plane interiors which transport the Royal family around the globe… Work on Season 5 has already started, what an incredible journey it continues to be.”
Elstree Studios’ Managing Director, Roger Morris, said: “As Mark said it’s an incredible journey and we are proud to play our part as the Studios for The Crown.”
Read more about how ‘The Crown’ is made on site at Elstree Studios here: PRODUCTION OF ‘THE CROWN’ AT ELSTREE STUDIOS
Production of ‘The Crown’ at Elstree Studios as Series 4 is released on Netflix
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Today, the long-awaited series 4 of ‘The Crown’ has been released on Netflix. The new 10 episodes of the Left Bank Pictures Drama follow Olivia Colman as HRH Queen Elizabeth II in the next chapter of the British monarch’s story. This series sees the return of performances from Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles, Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret and Tobias Menzies as Prince Phillip alongside the debut of new cast members Emma Corrin as Princess Diana and Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher.
Whilst ‘The Crown’s production base is at Elstree Studios with impressive Buckingham Palace and Downing Street sets and creative departments working on site, the drama is also filmed on location locally, in the UK and overseas.
Much of the preparation and creative detail that goes into making the series happens on site. We asked a few of the creatives who worked on the new series about what their roles involve and how a busy day working on ‘The Crown’ at Elstree Studios may look…
Giles Gale is Costume Supervisor on ‘The Crown’, he said: “On a busy day at Elstree, ‘The Crown’ might have up to 300 background artists. Most of these will need to be ready for 8am when we start shooting. This means the Crowd Costume team starts work at around 5am. (Half an hour before all the Extras arrive to make sure everything is in place and that everybody knows what they are doing). With such a large call there could be as many as 20 additional Costume staff members to help get people ready and make sure they look correct on camera. No matter how busy it is we always make sure the Costume Crew has time to eat breakfast before shooting commences.
Meanwhile, the Principal Team are getting all the actors ready which can take a similar length of time. Once everyone is dressed and on set as well as shooting the scheduled scenes various teams will be working ahead at the Costume Base also at Elstree. This will involve Principal and Background fittings, setting up costumes for future filming days and logging new purchases and hires. We also have a team of 8 people constantly making costumes for the main cast.
At the end of the day all costumes have to be cleaned and either put aside for future use or returned to our stock or the Costume House they were hired from.”
Mark Raggett is Supervising Art Director on ‘The Crown’, he said: “We started work on ‘The Crown’ at Elstree Studios in late 2014 and here we are six years on about to release Season 4.
In the early days there were a few of us in the art department, with Martin the designer, working out what we might be able to achieve at Elstree.
Production soon followed and it was to became our permanent home.
The backlot allowed us the space to build both the exterior of the Palace and Downing Street, which has served us well over the last 4 Seasons.
The stages have provided us with permanent space for the interior of Downing Street (cabinet rooms etc.) and the living quarters of the Palace, both upstairs and down. We often spill onto other stages with sets which vary from the Interior of the Britannia, various newspaper offices and the myriad of plane interiors which transport the Royal family around the globe.
Ideally situated as we are near the M25 we are within easy reach of nearby stately homes like Wrotham Park and Hatfield House; also a good starting point when heading off to Blenheim Palace to the north and Wilton House to the West.
Work on Season 5 has already started, what an incredible journey it continues to be.”
Owen Harrison is the Props Supervisor for ‘The Crown’, he said: “On any given day on ‘The Crown’ we can be dressing or striking sets on up to 5/6 different locations. Each one will have a team of 4-8 Prop people there and they can be anywhere in the country, from the very top of Scotland to an airport on the south coast.
Between myself and my Assistant Prop Master Neal Kirke we need to organise the crew for each location, the collection and delivery of all the hired props, stock props that have been purchased for the specific location and work to the time frame the location allows.
I liaise with the location manager for each location to ensure both the location owners are happy with what we’re doing and we achieve what is required for shooting.
Once on site we work with the Set Decorator for the specific set to fulfil their vision to the very high standards we set ourselves and that is necessary for a show such as ‘The Crown’.
It’s always very busy and at times quite challenging but I don’t think we’d like it any other way!
A typical day on ‘The Crown’ Prop Dept can require a combined total of 40 prop men split between 5 or 6 locations and a full-time crew at the Elstree prop store.
Every location can contain multiple sets and exteriors that need to be dressed, filmed then struck and re-instated back to how it was before we arrived. A large percentage of the locations are Stately homes and National Trust properties that come with very specific requirements and strict guidelines so our teams must liaise with the Locations department to ensure that everything runs smoothly during this period.
We have dressed locations throughout the UK and abroad turning Spain into America for Princess Margaret’s visit. Other notable highlights have been recreating Balmoral in Scotland and turning Manchester’s streets into New York for Diana’s visit.
We also have the standing sets at Elstree including the backlot which require dressed and struck each time we film there.
To transform these locations frequently requires several large trucks full of props that Set Dec have selected from the industry’s prop houses. The teams will unload the trucks and carry the props to the correct sets before working with Set Dec to deliver the finished set ready for filming. This will often involve rigging huge chandeliers and hanging 30’ drapes in locations like Lancaster House in London and Wilton House near Salisbury.
This is where our Stand-By-Props take over to work with the director and cast to ensure that each character has the correct props for the scene. An example of this would be the bell the Queen uses in the Audience Room to dismiss the Prime Minister or the paperwork used in the Cabinet room for meetings. There is also Princess Margaret’s vintage luggage that takes up quite a lot of room and the cups of tea served on silver trays and china mugs.
Although we work very closely with Set Dec none of this would be possible without the close co-operation of the other departments including Production, Locations, Construction, Painters, Riggers, Electrical and Wardrobe.”
Roger Morris, Managing Director at Elstree Studios, said: “’The Crown’ is feature film quality; well researched and written, beautifully directed with great cinematography, wonderful costumes and impressive performances. The fact that it is shown in 190 countries is a testament to its success.”
You can now stream all 10 episodes of ‘The Crown’ on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80025678
Elstree Studios welcomes back A League of Their Own
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Elstree Studios welcomes back Sky’s BAFTA award-winning entertainment show A League of Their Own for production of Series 15 in George Lucas Stage 2. With new strict safety measures put in place across site since the outbreak of COVID-19, Elstree Studios are committed to working with companies who help make the show, to ensure the new series is produced safely.
A League of Their Own will film without a live audience for the first time but will still include the fan favourite end games, VTs and challenges throughout the series. The show has been a stalwart in Sky’s entertainment portfolio over the past decade and one of the most popular shows on Sky One.
Production Company – CPL Productions, a Red Arrow Studios company
Technical Facilitator – BBC Studioworks
Elstree Studios remembers as ‘Big Brother – Best Shows Ever’ comes to E4
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From this Sunday (14th June), Davina McCall and Rylan Clark-Neal will be reminding us of some of the very best moments and episodes from iconic reality TV show: Big Brother.
Next week marks the 20th anniversary since Big Brother’s premiere on Channel 4 on the 18th June 2000. Big Brother became an instant hit in the early 2000s. The first reality TV show of its kind in the UK, it offered viewers the chance to watch the ‘housemates’ 24 hours a day on a live stream and encouraged participation in the ‘eviction’ process.
The Big Brother house relocated to Elstree Studios for series 3 in 2002 where it occupied a large area of the backlot to the rear of the site until the franchise finished in 2018. During this time, a total of 619 housemates passed through the famous Borehamwood House.
In total, the various series of Big Brother over the years included: 17 Classic shows and 21 Celebrity shows plus 1 Celebrity Hijack, 1 Ultimate, 1 Panto and 1 Teen. In addition, the house provided a location for a feature film with zombies as well as for an open day event with the National Trust. The Big Brother House was transformed and themed for each series with some spectacular sets plus an outdoor pool, garden and jacuzzi.
To record and transmit the shows, the Big Brother House had 87 cameras (mostly remote-controlled robotic cameras transitioned from SD to HD) and 110 microphones, all placed strategically around the house to make sure not a moment of drama was missed – including the intimate night time recording. These were all controlled from a 24-hour production centre, also located at Elstree Studios.
Director of Production at Initial TV, Sandra Smith, said: ‘Elstree Studios is a great location for Big Brother. We have a complex technical operation set up within our new Big Brother Village. The Big Brother house is monitored 24 hours a day, and we have more than two live transmissions from the studio every day – 7 days per week.’
The show was hosted by Davina McCall and then by Emma Willis. Spin-off shows Big Brother’s Little Brother, Big Brother’s Bit on the Side and Big Brother’s Big Mouth introduced some of today’s favourite presenters including Dermot O’Leary and Rylan Clark-Neal.
Big Brother was narrated by the iconic voice of Marcus Bentley who told us: ‘being part of the Big Brother family on site at Elstree in the George Lucas [stage] and in the village has been the highlight of my professional life. The excitement I got from simply walking down that long drive (full of filming history) the literally thousands of times never lessened. Hundreds of amazing memories from walking down that stretch with my headphones on secretly blasting out the theme tune because it had just returned after leaving channel 4 – to chatting with Samuel L Jackson outside the [George] Lucas [Stages] on sunny day in July! I’ve spent quite a chunk of my life on site at Elstree and the warmth and kindness all around, from the security crew to the canteen and bar staff is second to none.’
Big Brother played a role in keeping Elstree Studios, already a legendary international Film & TV Studio, firmly in the spotlight with the general public both locally and nationally and was also hugely beneficial in many ways for the wider television industry.
Elstree Studios Managing Director, Roger Morris, says: ‘Big Brother was an important production not just for Elstree Studios where it was based for 16 years but for the technology advances it used in production with remote robotic cameras, timeline-based editing, file servers and with the advance in the internet, streaming and online promotion. It also became a training ground for many of those who now work in the film and tv industry. From producers to camera operators, from sound editors to presenters to directors, there are many people now in the top end of the film and television industry who started their careers as runners on Big Brother.’
Many housemates are remembered for the entertaining moments they created and for the impact they made on the Big Brother house. Nikki Grahame, who came 5th in the series 7 proved to become one of the most memorable housemates for her loud personality and tantrums. (‘Who is she!?’)
In series 6, Ulrika Jonsson and Verne Troyer entertained viewers and housemates with their rendition of ‘Endless Love’.
Big Brother was also responsible for the forming of many romantic relationships. Chantelle Houghton caught the eye of fellow housemate Preston when she appeared as a ‘fake celebrity’ in Celebrity Big Brother 4 (2006). The pair became an item in the house and married later that year but it was unfortunately short-lived and they divorced in 2007.
Jackie Stallone had one of the most memorable entrances to Big Brother when she strolled in as the ‘Queen Mother’ in Big Brother 3, much to the surprise of ex-daughter-law Brigitte Nielson who welcomed her. (Yeah, Jackie.)
Although her time in the Big Brother house was controversial, Jade Goody ultimately won the hearts of many viewers who followed her life after leaving the Big Brother house. Jade was diagnosed with cervical cancer and passed away in 2009 aged 27. Her story lead to a large growth in the number of women signing up for cervical cancer screening tests and encouraged women to learn more about the disease. Her legacy saved lives. Elstree Studios are in the process of placing a memorial plaque for Jade Goody on site.
Managing Director of Elstree Studios, Roger Morris, said: ‘The Big Brother Evictions were very special theatrical events at Elstree Studios, sometimes on wet and cold evenings. Over the years, Big Brother was constantly rediscovered by new audiences whilst it also maintained a large and truly dedicated older following. The show and its audiences probably brought millions of pounds in revenue to the local economy of Borehamwood. It was sad and emotional when it came to an end in 2018.’
Big Brother – Best Shows Ever is set to remind us of these memorable moments and many more. Emma Willis who presented the show after it moved to be broadcast on Channel 5 in 2011 and Dermot O’Leary who presented spin-off Big Brother’s Little Brother will also make an appearance in the 20th anniversary celebration show.
Big Brother – Best Shows Ever started on E4 on Sunday 14th June 2020 at 9pm.
Big Brother: The End of an Era
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After 18 amazing years, Big Brother will close its doors at Elstree Studios for the final time. Big Brother has had an extremely successful run as it is the longest running reality series in the UK to date. The first series of Big Br other UK premiered on the 18th July 2000. The house relocated to Elstree Studios for Big Brother 3 in 2002, where the house has remained ever since.
Since the house relocated to Elstree Studios we have seen a total of 619 housemates pass through the famous Borehamwood bungalow, 42 Big Brother’s including 17 Classics and 21 Celebrities, 1 Celebrity Hijack, 1 Ultimate, 1 Panto and who could forget 1 Teen. Big Brother has been on air over 1,817 days to include the Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother series. Big Brother is always watching with 87 cameras and 110 microphones in the house to make sure not a moment of drama is missed.
A conservative estimate of viewers and live audience over the run at Elstree Studios is 2.5 billion with an age group from every age group. The first ever series at Elstree Studios was the most popular series reaching an average record rating of 5.8 million viewers with the season finale reaching an astonishing peak of 10 million viewers. The first winner at Elstree Studios was Kate Lawler after surviving 64 days in the house. The highest viewing figures for an eviction night were when the late Jade Goody was evicted in 2007.
Davina McCall was the original presenter for this iconic series for a total of 10 years. In 2011, Channel 5 acquired Big Brother where Brian Dowling, the winner of Big Brother 2 and the winner of the Ultimate Big Brother in 2010, was announced as the new Big Brother presenter. On 2 April 2013, it was confirmed that Dowling would be replaced by Emma Willis, who had previously presented Big Brother’s Bit on the Side. Emma has become a great success and is now a leading TV presenter as is Big Brother’s Bit on the Side, Rylan Clark-Neal.
On 14 September 2018, Channel 5 announced that the 19th series was to be its last on Channel 5. On November 5th, Cameron Cole was crowned the last winner of Big Brother UK.
Elstree Studio’s reputation for high quality television continues with top Light Entertainment show Strictly Come Dancing and its partnership with BBC Studioworks providing state of the art television technical facilities. Elstree is home to many other top productions such as, award-winning, The Crown, Pointless, The Chase, The Voice and many more.
We remain very proud of our television and film work here and continue to thrive as the UK’s No. 1 Film & Television Studio. Films include The Danish Girl, The King’s Speech, Paddington and many more.
Since the success of Big Brother it has been copied by many other reality shows.
The Crown Season 3
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What time period will it take place in?
Following the precedent set by the first two seasons, which took place from 1947 to 1956 and 1957 to 1964 respectively, The Crown season 3 will cover the next decade of Queen Elizabeth II’s rule, when Her Majesty and Prince Philip will be in their fifties. While the first and second seasons primarily focused on the Queen, how she coped with taking the throne, and her marriage, it seems that season three will shine more of a light on the younger members of the family, the royal couple’s children.
In the public arena, the third instalment will likely explore the decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean in the early 70s, and Prince Charles’s movement to the public eye as he took on a more prominent role after being crowned the Prince of Wales by his mother in 1969.
The show’s historical consultant Robert Lacey confirmed that season three will also show the breakdown of Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon’s marriage. “Without giving anything away — it’s on the record, it’s history — we’ll see the breakup of this extraordinary marriage” Lacey told Town & Country.
Who will be in The Crown season 3 cast?
Peter Morgan, the show’s creator, had always planned to cast different stars for the later years. Explaining his motivation, he told Variety, “You can’t ask someone to act middle-aged. Someone has to bring their own fatigue to it. The feelings we all have as 50-year-olds are different to the feelings we all have as 30-year-olds.”
Olivia Colman, best known for her Emmy award-winning role in Broadchurch, will take over from Claire Foy in the starring role of Queen Elizabeth for the third and fourth seasons. When it was announced, Colman revealed that she is “ridiculously excited” to take on the much-coveted role. Netflix released a first look of the new actress in the role, with a still of her sipping tea while wearing the Queen’s signature powder-pink suit and pearls.
In further excellent casting, Helena Bonham Carter will take on the role of Princess Margaret. Vanessa Kirby, who played the royal in the first two seasons, in expressed her excitement aabout her successor on Instagram with a snap of Bonham Carter captioned, “Honoured”.
British actor Tobias Menzies will assume the role of Prince Philip, played by Matt Smith in seasons one and two. Menzies has appeared in several high-profile TV shows including The Night Manager, Outlander and Game of Thrones.
Netflix has confirmed that Line of Duty star Jason Watkins will play Prime Minister Harold Wilson, while Erin Doherty, known for her role on Call the Midwife, will take on the part of Princess Anne. Josh O’Connor will join the cast to play a young Prince Charles, Marion Bailey will play the Queen Mother and Ben Daniels will play Antony Armstrong-Jones.
Producer Suzanne Mackie explained to media at the BFI & Radio Times Festival that Camilla Parker Bowles will be making her first appearance in the third run. Prince Charles met the Duchess of Cornwall at a polo match in 1971.
When pressed on whether Princess Diana will feature, Morgan told Vanity Fair, “I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do with her if I ever get that far”. He added, “If she were to be introduced, it’d probably have to wait until the fourth.” Yet, People has reported that Diana will in fact feature at the end of the third season and will play a major role in the fourth season.
When will season three air?
Following the pattern of the previous seasons, where season one aired on November 4 2016 and season two on December 8 2017, we can most likely expect the third season to air in the final months of 2018.
How many more seasons will there be after the third?
Producer Suzanne Mackie at the BFI & Radio Times Festival in London explained that The Crown creator Peter Morgan had planned to make five more seasons of the series and write all of them himself.
The Dam Busters
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This month marked the 75th anniversary of the iconic Dambusters raid. The Dam Busters was an attack on German dams carried out on 16–17 May 1943 by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron using a purpose built ‘bouncing bomb.’ This military raid inspired the classic film The Dam Busters which was made at Elstree Studios. The film tells the true story of the raid and was the most popular film at the British box office in 1955.
On 17th May 2018 The Royal Albert Hall had a special commemorative gala event which was screened in nearly 400 cinemas across the country. To mark the occasion, there was an exclusive video featuring the last surviving member of the raid, Johnny Johnson, discussing his memories of his fallen colleagues. Squadron Leader George “Johnny” Johnson, 96, flew over the Derwent Valley in Derbyshire to mark 75 years since the raid took place.
The Dam Busters was first released in the UK in 1955, and directed by the late Michael Anderson who died earlier this year. The film starred Richard Todd, Michael Redgrave, Ursula Jeans and Basil Sydney.
Barnes Wallis, an aeronautical engineer, played by Michael Redgrave, convinced the powers that his theory of making a bouncing bomb for the proposed attacks could become a reality even though it would mean damaging German industry. Actor George Baker was cast as Flight Lieutenant David Maltby in the film. David Maltby was the RAF pilot who actually hit the dam with his bomb and burst it.
Paul Welsh, Film Historian, says ‘This is a classic Elstree film from the 1950’s. The Studio spent two years in pre-production as it was a prestige production and it had to be accurate. The recently departed director Michael Anderson told me they warned him if they did not like the early rushes he would be replaced but he did a great job. The star was Richard Todd who I had the pleasure to host a plaque unveiling in his honour in 1996 at Elstree. I knew him for many years and the last time I saw the film was sitting next to him at a public screening shortly before his death.
In 1989 I invited several of the original RAF crew who took part in the raid to a reception at Elstree Studios. They were old men then but I was in awe of them as back in 1943 they were young lads with an appalling survival rate but they still made us all proud. I think The Dam Busters is a great movie. Okay the special effects are dated but it has stood the test of time. Plus who can forget the wonderful music score. This was Elstree Studios at its best in the 1950’s.’
Roger Morris, Managing Director of Elstree Studios, says ‘The Dam Busters was an iconic film, they used the water tank at the back of the studios the tank is currently under the Big Brother house. We have a marvelous picture of the film crew and cast with a Lancaster. There’s a certain magic about Elstree and its studios, so many iconic films have been made here.’
An Evening With Take That
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To mark the release of their latest album, Wonderland, Take That will be fronting a one-off special for ITV. Find out what happened when What’s on TV spent An Evening With Take That?