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Idris Elba filmed Bastille Day in Paris and London

British actor Idris Elba filmed action movie Bastille Day on location in Paris, but also doubled London for the French capital.

The film tells the story of Elba's Paris-based CIA agent protecting Richard Madden's pickpocket from a shadowy enemy when the young thief is blamed for a terrorist bombing. Bastille Day’s release was postponed following the real terror attacks in Paris last November.

Filming took place largely in Paris, with the support of France’s Tax Rebate for International Productions (TRIP). At the time the TRIP was worth 20% of production expenditure, but this figure rose to 30% earlier this year. 

Location work for Bastille Day took place in some of the lesser-known suburbs of Paris, as well as around the city’s more famous central landmarks.

“We hope the film gives audiences everywhere a different perspective on what a tough, muscular and serious city Paris is,” says producer David Kanter. “It's not just a beautiful place - it's also a tough working city and I think we get into that in a very meaningful way for the story.”

A key chase sequence was filmed on top of the BHV department store in the city centre and the production team built fake rooftop architecture for the actors and stunt crew to navigate.

“I wanted it to have a real pace and reality to it, so we built rooftop upon rooftop in Paris,” says director James Watkins.

“I didn't want to do it through visual effects, so the backdrop that you see is a real backdrop of the city of Paris. We went back to really old-school traditions of Harold Lloyd and saying ‘Okay, how can we cheat this?’”  

Location filming switched to London for the final month of the nine-week shoot, doubling the city for Paris. The Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) in Greenwich was central to the shoot and enabled Watkins and his team to have fuller logistical control over riot scenes set around the Bank of France. 

The ORNC is a popular central London filming location, lending itself particularly well to stories with period settings.

In recent years it's hosted scenes for big-budget shoots like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Tom Hooper’s Oscar-winning adaptation of Les Miserables and Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World.

London and other historic UK cities have been regular doubles for Paris over the years, partly because of steeper production costs associated with filming in France. Since France’s filming incentive was increased in January this year, the country is starting to attract more big-budget Hollywood productions like Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.

For more on filming in France see our production guide.

Images: Jessica Forde/StudioCanal


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