The production designer for The Crown recently revealed that he posed as a tourist to gain access to Buckingham Palace when planning out the sets for the Netflix saga.
Martin Childs — who won an Oscar for this work on the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love — admitted that he queued up for a public tour of the Palace, after the royal family refused to co-operate with filming for the semi-fictional series.
Despite its most recent season taking home a Golden Globe for Best Drama Series, season 4 of The Crown has also proved the most controversial so far, with storylines depicting the alleged love triangle between Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles ruffling serious feathers within the royal family — prompting royal aides to give their opinion on the accuracy of the series.
Pre-pandemic, anyone could pay to access Buckingham palace and view the State Rooms — including the Throne Room and White Drawing Room — for just £26.50, meaning Childs was able to conduct his inspection of the Palace undetected.
“All I could think about was how we could turn these rooms into spaces where action could happen, where people could have conversations, where we could maintain an interest,’ he explained. ‘Whenever I was in a room I was looking through doorways into the next room, to see what interesting frames it would make on the screen.”
Although his tour proved invaluable, Childs was disappointed to see that many of the rooms in the Palace looked the same — meaning he turned to alternative filming locations for inspiration, using Wilton House in Wiltshire for indoor scenes and passing the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich off as the palace exterior.
He did however, use information he gleaned on his visit to recreate the Palace at 15 filming locations, including 4 sets at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, 11 stately homes and several historic buildings.
Although the royal family’s chambers are not open for the public to view, Childs knew from other sources that the four rooms on that floor were connected by doors rather than corridors.
“The one thing I knew was that the upstairs apartments were built in an enfilade, which meant four rooms in a row connected by doors rather than by a corridor,’ he said, revealing that this information helped fuel the unspoken emotional undercurrent of the main relationship in the series.
“As soon as I knew that about the private apartments, the Queen’s bedroom and dressing room, and Philip’s bedroom, then I had an architectural metaphor for an extraordinary marriage. It meant they could close doors on one another, there’d be distance between them, there would be closeness when they wanted it.”
The fifth season of The Crown is due to start filming this summer, with Imelda Staunton set to take over from Olivia Coleman to play Queen Elizabeth.
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