The World Heritage Site City of Bath, England welcomed the cast and crew of the Warner Bros' movie Wonka in October 2021. The historic city centre delivered a number of delicious locations for the big screen spectacular due for release in March 2023. Featuring Timothée Chalamet in the lead role as Young Willy Wonka with Olivia Colman, Matt Lucas and Rowan Atkinson named amongst a brilliantly talented cast, the city put itself in the limelight this week playing a breathtaking beautiful supporting role.
The city's 17th Century Colonnades were lit wonderfully and provided a living set whilst everyday life continued directly overhead. The awesome globally-renowned atmosphere-creators Snow Business - based a mere 30-miles away in nearby Stroud - helped transform the city in to a winter wonderland, with artificial snow from several canons falling over Pulteney Weir and beyond for several hours one evening.
Whilst the detail of what was to descend on the city on the week commencing 11 October 2021 was kept well under wraps, we saw the signs! Advance warning of traffic control appeared with a week or so to go, followed by logistics signs for location, cars, base and others - before Warner Bros boldly announced their arrival with lighting and rigging trucks assuming their positions.
Bath Abbey was revealed in all its glory - following the removal of some long-standing hoardings - as an impressive backdrop helped by crystal clear blue skies.
The scene was accompanied by a number of vehicles making their appearance in a similarly wintery setting . This included a "Zoological Gardens Security" hinting at the narrative that was unfolding, written and directed by Paddington Director Paul King with Simon Farnaby credited as a co-writer and actor in the film.
And when not in front of the camera, a fleet of vintage cars was kept under tight security in nearby Avon Street car park, acting as a temporary back lot.
Only time will tell what role premium seafood merchant Moreau & Fils will play in the movie, though Wonka (and his stunt double) was spotted hitching a ride atop the vehicle in both Bath and Lyme Regis the previous week!
Whilst the focal point was the city centre area in and around Parade Gardens, the city became a living and breathing film set for a week with additional locations spotted in Bath Street, Walcot Street and beyond. Cast and crew were based in the car park to Lansdown North playing fields - and at times sharing some of Walcot Rugby Club's car park too - just a few minutes' shuttle bus run to the north of the city.
Back to the main location and the heart of the location for the week - Parade Gardens - and waterfront gazebos housed a temporary production suite, whilst a number of different internal and external scenes were shot across the week in a location looking particularly resplendent during the evening shoots. Atmospheric smoke shrouded Bath Abbey for much of the time, whilst the warm and inviting glow from the Colonnades added further fuel to the ongoing debate in the city about revitalising this historic space for public access and enjoyment once more.
The production's drone, under the watchful control of Mike Foyle, and large industrial oscillating fans were sited on the opposite side of the River Avon, firing up on cue prior to cameras rolling creating a magical backdrop brightly lit from above thanks to specialist lighting on cranes and cherry-pickers.
In one particular scene with Tom Davis, Wonka star Timothée Chalamet is seen reclined on a white bench (pictured) supported by a dog animal actor, whose handler (face-masked and hidden out of shot) skillfully signalled barks on cue as part of the scene's dialogue.
Huge congratulations to the production team, cast and crew - and particularly the location team of Mark Grimwade, Stephen Parker, Adam Richards, Chris Rouse and those at the Bath Film Office for their making the most of the city and capturing the very Best of Bath.
We can't wait to get hold of our very own Golden Ticket to see the end result and enjoy Bath on the big screen in 2023. Wishing you all the very best for the remainder of filming and post-production over the coming 18 months - and making your memorable visit to Bath a most wonderful week when Wonka came to town!