Plymouth in Wonderland
BLOCKBUSTER film studio Disney is to shoot a multi-million
pound new version of Alice in Wonderland in Plymouth.
Internationally acclaimed director Tim Burton will put his
own unique stamp on the classic tale – and it is being heavily
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rumoured that Hollywood heart-throb Johnny Depp will star as
the Mad Hatter.
And hundreds of Plymothians will have the chance to get
themselves seen by an audience of millions on the silver screen
by starring as extras in the film.
People are being invited to a casting event in Plymouth next
week, where 250 extras will be chosen.
Shooting will take place in the city in September for two
weeks, and the hunt is now on for extras to take part in scenes
set in Victorian times.
The name of the Disney/Burton film has not been publicly
confirmed. However, an industry source has told The Herald that
it will be a major new adaptation of the timeless Lewis Carroll
The filming locations in the city also remain a closely
guarded industry secret, but impressive historic properties
like Saltram House, Mount Edgcumbe and the Royal William Yard
are strong contenders.
The film, which is due for release in 2010, will be shown in
3-D, and has all the hallmarks of a massive box office hit.
Its director Tim Burton has already made his name on hit
films, including Batman, The Nightmare Before Christmas and
Edward Scissorhands, which also starred A-listed Johnny
The pair have teamed up on numerous other major films, like
the recent smash-hit Sweeney Todd. Australian newcomer Mia
Wasikowska, will play the part of Alice.
The film's casting agents are coming to the New Continental
Hotel, Plymouth, on Wednesday August 6 and Thursday August 7,
between 10am and 6pm, auditioning for paid extras. There is a
minimum age limit of 16.
Ilenka Jelowicki, who has cast for James Bond movie Casino
Royale and is company director for Mad Dog, said: “We are
looking for people above the age of 16 who have naturally
“We would prefer girls with long hair and men with natural
styles. Extras will get to dress up in Victorian period
costume, corsets and wigs and will have their make-up done.
“We would also like people whose work allows the flexibility
of two weeks' worth of filming.
“Being an extra is not just about being a blur in the
background, it can lead to fantastic opportunities. One of my
extras has now gone on to produce his own film, and another
went on to star in Hollyoaks for three years.
“There will be at least 100 crew on-set and it'll be a
wonderful experience to be a part of a big movie. It'll be
well-paid and hopefully a hugely enjoyable experience.
“It is definitely something to show your grandchildren.”
It will not be the first time Plymouth has been chosen to
host A-listers and big-budget film crews.
Big movies filmed in the city include Sense and Sensibility,
starring Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet, filmed at
Saltram House in 1995, and Churchill, the Hollywood Years,
starring Christian Slater and Neve Campbell, shot at the Royal
William Yard in 2003.
David Shepheard, Head of Locations at South West Screen,
confirmed that his team had been working with the Disney crew
to scout possible locations across the West, although he
refused to give details.
He said: “The locations chosen in Plymouth had just the
right feel for the needs of the film.
“Our primary role is to attract productions to come to film
in this region and we're absolutely delighted to attract such a
big production to the South West.”
The Herald's historian, Barbican-based Chris Robinson,
pointed to some possible prime spots for a Victorian-era film
He said: “The Barbican has the highest concentration of
cobbled streets in the country and Mount Edgcumbe has one of
the finest landscaped gardens in the country, so these are
“In fact the Italian garden there would be perfect for a Mad
Hatter's tea-party, and there is also a fine orangery.
He added: “Funnily enough I was at the Royal William last
night, thinking what a fantastic location it would make for
filming too, as it is so untouched and secluded.”
He also pointed towards the long colonnade at Devonport High
for Boys, perfect for scenes with the Queen of Hearts, Fore
Street in Plympton St Maurice and New Street, where part of
Hornblower was filmed.
Malcolm Bell, Chief Executive for South West Tourism
highlighted the benefits an event of this kind could bring to
He said: “Any filming in a town brings three levels of
benefits. First there's the economic benefit of the actors and
crew spending money in local businesses. Then there's the PR
that is brought to a place from extra news coverage, and
finally the boost to the profile and perception of a place when
they expose the beauty of a location.
“This will give a great opportunity for a new perception of