popcorn+movie stars=memorial day weekend

May 21st, 2009

NTPL/Rupert ThurmanEasy Virtue

Memorial Day Weekend not only inaugurates the season of white clothing but also the stream of summer blockbusters.  This year pits the latest installments in the Terminator and Night at the Museum franchises against each other.  Yet, the movie we’re most excited to see is Easy Virtue, a Brit rom-com starring Colin Firth, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Jessica Biel.  The real star, though, is sure to be Wimpole Hall, a National Trust estate in Cambridgeshire, where the film’s big hunting scene was shot.  This summer and fall, take a trip full of cinematic intrigue and visit one of many National Trust properties that have played roles in the iconic films of our time.

Make the deal a little sweeter with some pre-trip planning: savvy travelers who join The Royal Oak Foundation, the U.S. affiliate of the venerable National Trust, gain FREE access to Wimpole Hall and all of the properties featured below (in addition to the over 300 historic houses and gardens, 700 miles of coastline, and 620,000 acres of open countryside).  Individual Royal Oak memberships cost only $55, while families pay $90.  Don’t wait, though – buying a membership pass in the U.K. means paying more, as an individual membership costs £46!

Recent Budding Stars

The Duchess

Keira Knightley in a period piece?  We know, it’s a stretch.  With settings like Kedleston in Derbyshire, West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire, Clandon Park in Surrey, and Osterley just outside central London, this film’s backdrops had us booking tickets on the next available flight to the U.K.  Future filmmakers take note: new this year at Kedleston is an exhibition illustrating how the interiors were transformed and cared for during filming.

The Other Boleyn Girl

The romance and intrigue of this film starring Natalie Portman, Eric Bana, and Scar Jo transported audiences back to the rule of Henry VII;  so,too, did the exteriors and interiors of Knole in Kent, Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire (featured in Harry Potter, too!), and Great Chalfield, also in Wiltshire.

Miss Potter

Renee Zellwegger had already conquered the British accent (Bridget Jones, anyone?), so she was perfectly poised to star as another beloved Brit – this time a character of nonfiction: Beatrix Potter.  Filmed in and around The Lake District, the movie used Yew Tree Farm to serve as Hill Top, the farmhouse where Potter wrote most of her beloved children’s stories.

The Jane Austen Connection

Belton House, Lincolnshire

In the celebrated 1995 BBC TV version of Pride and Prejudice, it was the good fortune of Jennifer Ehle’s Lizzy to dine in the magnificent splendor of Belton House, which played Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s residence, Rosings.

Lyme Park, Cheshire

Lyme Park is a Tudor house transformed into an Italianate palace, famous for its role as Pemberley, Darcy’s home, in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice.  Undoubtedly the scene featuring Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) after a dip in the lake cemented the actor’s leading man status and turned Lyme Park into one of TV’s most iconic backdrops.

Basildon Park, Berkshire

Basildon Park took a starring role in the 2005 production of Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley as Lizzy. The 18th-century Palladian mansion ‘played’ Mr. Bingley’s house, Netherfield, a suitably grand residence for a “young man of four or five thousand a year.”  The house is also the setting for the sumptuous ballroom scenes.

Stourhead Landscape Garden, Wiltshire

The 2005 production of Pride & Prejudice features the 18th-century landscaped garden, Stourhead, and one of its enchanting temples.  The Temple of Apollo, set above the tranquil lake, was used as the location for Darcy’s first and futile proposal to Lizzy. Afterwards an offended Lizzy makes her exit across the Palladian Bridge.

Claydon House, Buckinghamshire

This fine Georgian country house was the location for the ballroom scene in the 1996 film of Jane Austen’s Emma.  The film stars Gwyneth Paltrow as the self-elected matchmaker, Emma, who inevitably gets a taste of her own medicine.

Montacute House, Somerset

Montacute played a major role in Sense and Sensibility, the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel starring Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson.  Ten years later, it took on a less-refined part as Johnny Depp’s ‘den of iniquity’ in The Libertine.

Photos: Wimpole Hall courtesy of NTPL/Rupert Thurman; movie still from www.easyvirtuethemovie.co.uk

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