North London’s Hampstead is showcased in all of its green and leafy glory in the new movie of the same name, staring Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson, which is released in cinemas this summer. Click here to see the trailer.
The romantic comedy “Hampstead” is inspired by the life of Henry “Harry” Hallowes, an Irishman who lived in a tumbledown shack on the fringe of Hampstead Heath for almost 30 years. The man who became known as “Harry the Hermit” won squatter’s rights to the half acre plot in 2007 when developers tried to evict him.
Harry died last year, aged 88, so will never see the film he inspired, but he would probably have never ventured to see it anyway after telling the Camden New Journal “in blunt terms” he had no interest in the movie.
At a screening for cast and crew this week in Soho, producer Robert Bernstein of Ecosse Films described the movie as “Notting Hill for silver surfers” and the beautiful cinematography and picturesque scenery could certainly bring an influx of tourists to the north London village, as it did for Notting Hill in the west, back in 1999.
Like Notting Hill, and as so often the case in these ever so British films, one of the lead characters is an American, perhaps to aid its appeal across the pond. Diane Keaton stars as sparky widow Emily who becomes curious of the man she spots from her attic window living on the Heath. Brendan Gleeson plays a gruff yet loveable Donald Horner and the pair take on a David and Goliath battle against the developers and, of course, fall in love along the way.
As with any good rom-com the plot offers some twists and turns as well as plenty of laughs, all supported by a strong cast of established British actors including James Norton (Grantchester) and Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral). The biggest laughs – and cringe-factor – are thanks to Jason Watkin’s creepy accountant James as he attempts to woo our heroine. Watch out too for a brief appearance from an ITV News reporter (yep, that was me….typecast again).
The majority of the filming took place on location in north-west London but other parts of the capital had a look in too, including in Kingston where the court scenes were shot.
As London continues to thrive as a backdrop for many Hollywood movies, “Hampstead” will show the world the less familiar beauty and charm of its namesake in NW3. Filmmakers say they are thrilled with the ambition and quality of the movie which will be released in almost 400 UK cinemas on June 23rd. It will then be shown worldwide, from Japan to the USA.
So be warned, if Hampstead is your turf, it may well get a little more well-trodden should the movie be a success.