Our park has been a magnet for film makers since at least the 1930’s. It is estimated that over 170 films have been made in the past 125 years featuring Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill. Other films have spilled over into neighbourhoods surrounding the park. The Paddington Bear films are a case in point where the Brown family home was in Chalcot Crescent.
The very first films were made to promote the zoo, starting in 1896 when a one-minute film was made of the lions being fed. It was followed by an 1897 film of children on elephants described as “A very pretty scene, showing one of the pet elephants in the London Zoological Gardens bearing a happy crowd of children along one of the picturesque paths.” A series of films were then made until 1902 involving tigers, pelicans. seals, giraffes etc.
The next reported film was made in 1931 (there were, no doubt, others made that were not recorded) entitled “Darwin was Right” comparing human behaviour to that of the apes!
The first ‘real story’ film made in the park was in 1935, “The 39 Steps” produced by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll.
In 1945, at the end of the war, David Lean’s classic British romance, “Brief Encounter” starring Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard and Stanley Holloway, was shot in the Park. The photo shows a pivotal scene in which Alec and Laura, played by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, are in a rowing boat when Alec stumbles off the end of the boat near the Long Bridge and ends up knee-deep in water.
In the next 10 years several thrillers were made including “The Fallen Idol” (1948) and “Seven Days to Noon” (1950) and these were followed in 1955 by “The End of the Affair, a story of love and infidelity starring Deborah Kerr,
“Three Men in a Boat”, based on the 1889 novel by Jerome K. Jerome, was made in 1956 with scenes shot on the Regent’s Park lake. It was directed by Ken Annakin and starred Laurence Harvey, Jimmy Edwards, Shirley Eaton, and David Tomlinson.
In 1957 Peter Finch starred in “The Trials of Oscar Wilde” and again in 1964 in “The Pumpkin Eater” that took place in the Zoo. The first Sherlock Holmes film made in the park was in 1968 when scenes for ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (not to be confused with the 1959 Hammer version) were filmed in the Zoo. The Zoo continued to be a popular filming location in the 1960’s and in 1968, “The Fallen Idol” was filmed in the Lion house.
The 1970’s saw the making of several comedies including “Man about the House” and “The Odd Job.”
1981 saw the making of “An American Werewolf in London” a horror comedy film written and directed by John Landis. The film stars David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne and John Woodvine. The film’s plot follows two American backpackers, David and Jack, who are attacked by a werewolf while travelling in England. Several of the scenes were set in the Zoo where David Naughton wakes up after attacking tramps near Tower Bridge.
In “Withnail & I” (1987), Withnail (Richard E. Grant) takes a final stroll with Marwood (Paul McGann) before delivering a soliloquy from Hamlet outside the wolf enclosure at the Zoo.
Very few films were reported being made in the Park in the 1990’s but 2001 saw the making of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” where an early scene is set in the Zoo. During a visit to the reptile house, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) first discovers he has unusual powers when he talks to the snakes and unwittingly frees a boa constrictor.
In 2002, in “About a Boy” the lake in Queen Mary’s Garden became a romantic hunting ground for Will, a rich but shallow thirty-something played by Hugh Grant. Will courts single mothers in the park because he thinks they are easy targets. There’s no conquest but he makes friends with twelve-year-old Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) and the two have a heart-to-heart next to the penguin pool at the zoo.
On Primrose Hill, love is also in the air in the opening credits of “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” (2004). Bridget (Renee Zellweger), dressed in a Sound of Music costume, runs into the arms of Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). But then she asks, “What happens after they live happily ever after?”.
“28 Weeks Later” (2007), directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo concerns a “rage virus’ that has devastated the population of Great Britain. American military escort a group of uninfected survivors to Regent’s Park where they hope to escape from London in a helicopter.
“The Kings Speech” (2010) starred Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter and Derek Jacobi. It included several scenes set in the Park. The photo shows Lionel Logie (Geoffrey Rush) meeting King George VI (Colin Firth) in the Nesfield Gardens
We’ve even had Jams Bond visit our park when, in 2012, The Komodo Dragon scene from “Skyfall”, was made in the Zoo
A body is found in the Regent’s Canal in the film
“Summer Night-Winter Moon”, a thriller made in 2012 but set in 1935. It stars Caterina Murino, Stephen Fry, Gia Skova and John Moulder-Brown.
The Readymoney Fountain takes centre stage when an entire scene is filmed there in “The Hummingbird” (2013). Nun Cristina (Agata Buzek) meets Joey there and takes pictures of him.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E” (2015) directed by Guy Ritchie was based on the 1964 television series of the same name. The film starred Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Hugh Grant. Several scenes were filmed in Regent’s Park on Holme Green.
Scenes for “Goodbye Christopher Robin” were filmed by Disney in 2017 in the Zoo and the Land of Lions was the setting for scenes from “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018).
In that same year, several sequences of “Wonder Woman 1984” were shot in different parts of London, including the Royal College of Physicians in Regent’s Park.
In 2019, Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne were filmed in the gardens of Cumberland Terrace in scenes about their balloon adventure “The Aeronauts”.
In 2021, filming took place for “A Boy Called Christmas” along the edge of Primrose Hill.
The 1960’s saw the first of at least 10 episodes of “The Avengers” being made in the Park. Starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg, they began with “Something Nasty in the Nursery” and “You’ll Catch Your Death”. An Avengers re-make was filmed in York Terrace East in 1998.
Two episodes of “The Sweeney” were made in the park between 1975 and 1978. The series focused on The Met Police Flying Squad tackling armed robbery and violent crime in London. t starred John Thaw as Detective Inspector Jack Regan and Dennis Waterman as his partner, Detective Sergeant George Carter.
“Minder”, that also starred Dennis Waterman, featured 10 series from 1979 to 1994 and scenes from at least 2 episodes were filmed in the Park.
In 1983 “The Professionals” starring Gordon Jackson filmed an episode called “A Man Called Quinn” on Primrose Hill .
In 1999 some episodes of “Holby City” were filmed in the Park and “Spooks” invaded in 2011.
The “Rosemary and Thyme” series starred Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris as gardening detectives Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme. In 2006, the episode “Three Legs Good” showed Rosemary and Laura working on planting in Queen Mary’s Garden. Hidden amongst the plants and visitors were many secrets, all mysteriously connected to a three-legged dog.
In 2011, in an episode in Series 14 of “Silent Witness”, Nikki, Harry and Leo are called to the Dutch Embassy in the wake of a shooting. The Royal College of Physicians in Regent’s Park starred as the “Embassy”.
Parts of several episodes of “The Crown” were filmed in the Park between 2016 and 2019
Mark Elliott, December 2021
Note: This report contains some of the more well-known films and TV shows set in Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill. For the complete list, please see the IMDP links below