In a new feature for MaverickFilm we take a look at cities and their contribution to film and television across the years. Starting with Liverpool, a city full of history and architectural wonder making it a perfect location for many films.
The buildings of Liverpool, which have been restored following the horrific damage of the Second World War over the years, are a perfect tapestry of most of the major architectural movements of the 19th and 20th century. Resultingly Liverpool is uniquely poised to step in as a double for many cities where production costs are high or their city’s architecture has lapsed.
This is why Liverpool is the second most filmed city in the UK as it becomes a ‘stunt double’ for the likes of Chicago, New York and other metropolises in films such as Captain America: The First Avenger and The Hunt for Red October. Such unique array of buildings thus makes Liverpool a ‘chameleon’, able to fill in many films as many cities, even Gotham when it featured in The Dark Knight.
But for those films set in a more gritty environment, Liverpool’s extensive docks developed during its imperial heydey offer a huge variety of backdrops for films and television programmes set in the past. It is no surprise it has amazing Victorian buildings featured in Peaky Blinders and the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films.
One of Liverpool’s most curious pieces of architecture is actually the Queensway Tunnel from Liverpool to Birkenhead. This tunnel is one of the largest in Europe and closes every night making it a perfect location for taking on the generic tunnel role in films. Appearances in Harry Potter and Fast and Furious make this Liverpool’s biggest film star in more ways than one.
… it has helped make projects realities through its desire to accommodate and help any production.
But to say Liverpool is just a backup location is unfair. Liverpool’s rich culture and people have been the focus of many films and programmes over the years. Aside from the rather cringy and dated The Beatles films, there is much more to Liverpool’s filmography.
No Surrender from 1985 is a black comedy set in Liverpool’s suburbs that is one of the best examples of Scousers’ frankly bizarre sense of humour. One of Liverpool’s most iconic films may be one not many have seen. The 51st State has never been rated highly, it was actually a box-office disaster. But it has to be one of the most fun films from the early noughties with Samuel Jackson and Robert Carlyle causing chaos across Liverpool against the backdrop of rave culture and the worst gangsters in history.
Comedy is important in Liverpool but so is the spirit of its people. Brookside showed Liverpool’s people on the small screen, becoming a vehicle for progress as it broke many taboos for broadcast television; a reflection of Liverpool’s boldness and diversity. Yet one film, set in Liverpool, captured this so well it was Oscar nominated.
Educating Rita was a powerful story of a working class girl, Julie Walters as Rita, from Liverpool trying to better herself through the Open University. She is fuelled by jealousy of the middle classes but comes to realise through her lecturer that they are no happier than her. This film speaks to many parts of Liverpool’s identity; determination, heart, courage and keeping your sense of humour no matter what.
Liverpool’s contribution to film and television is immense, it has helped make projects realities through its desire to accommodate and help any production. But its people contribute a great array of characters, stories and actors who have made a such a positive impact wherever they go.
By Arran Byers