For those of you who are fans of George Michael, Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Paul Feig or just lovers of Christmas feel good movies, you’ll probably love this film.
Don’t let the Guardian’s one star Grinch-like review put you off if you haven’t seen it, especially if you enjoy looking around London’s streets for the unusual, unique, hidden or simply beautiful nuggets of history which give this city so much magic.
So in honour of Last Christmas and its litany of film locations, here’s a guide to the best bits… Just in case you missed part 1, then click here.
1. Phoenix Gardens
This wonderful oasis in the heart of Central London was officially opened in 1986, and acts as a community garden run by dedicated volunteers to provide a much needed sanctuary amidst the noise and commotion of the surrounding area.
Emma Thompson and Paul Feig considered this to be the ideal location for several key scenes in the movie where Tom and Katie have their heart to heart chats. For these scenes, the whole garden was turned into a beautifully lit fairyland which truly conveyed the magic of Christmas in London.
Originally on the site of these gardens stood a building which was bombed in WW2. Following that it was a car park, and if you do come here, take a moment to consider that beneath your feet there are still arched vaults and cellars for buildings which used to be here before, meaning that it is only suitable for plants with shallow roots. Perhaps a good analogy for the way Kate feels about her life until she meets Tom.
And before you leave this tiny oasis, check out the mural by the street artist Stik.
2. Cecil Court
One of the most atmospheric streets in London, you may remember this as the place where Kate dragged her suitcase into Tom while he was locking up his bike, then proceeded to get changed out of her elf costume in a doorway!
Cecil Court has been known as a heaven for book enthusiasts for 300 years, and still is the place in London if you are searching for an out of print book. Those of you who remember the TV advert for Yellow Pages in 1983 may remember that JR Hartley came here to look for his book on fly fishing!
It also has a rather magical feel, with the oldest esoteric bookshop in London, Watkins, having attracted such luminaries as Blavatsky, Yeats and almost certainly JK Rowling, who may well have been inspired by the street’s atmosphere when conjuring up Diagon Alley.
If you are keen to find out more about this magical street, and some surrounding alleyways, hidden and secret history, then join our Secret London Tour. Alternatively, you could book a private tour with Matt and he’ll take you on a tour of all the Last Christmas film locations – contact us at email@example.com for further details.
3. Cleopatra’s Needle
Movement is a fundamental part of the film with Tom being fluid and dancing through life, while Kate trudges stiffly around the streets of London. He does this at Cleopatra’s needle. He practiced for hours in the studio dancing around obstacles set up to represent lampposts and benches.
One of the things you’ll notice when you arrive is that the bench was just a prop brought in for the shot. And think further on it and it makes sense – why would a bench have its back to the Needle and River Thames, and face the road? Just for the film to work, that’s why!
In order to keep themselves warm, Golding and Clarke often used to sing Garage songs in the early hours of the morning.
The needle was finished in 1450BC and stood in Heliopolis, Egypt, making it possibly the oldest man made structure on the streets of London. It was given by the Egyptian sultan to the English after the battle of the Nile in 1801, but the British didn’t want to pay to transport it. Eventually in 1877, some 76 years later a wealthy scientist William Wilson paid for it to be taken to England. But on the way the boat capsized, killing the six crew. Somehow the obelisk stayed afloat and it was erected here in 1878.
A curious and rather odd choice made by the Victorians was to position the bronze sphinxes facing away from the needle and so not protecting it! While a rather more serious and poignant scar can be seen on the needle, with damage still visible from a WW1 raid on 4th September 1917
One wonderful little ‘secret’: Before it was erected in London, a time capsule was put here containing some items from the period, including photographs of the twelve most beautiful women in England, a box of hairpins, box of cigars, imperial weights, baby’s bottle, childrens’ toys, a razor, British coins, a portrait of Queen Victoria, several bibles in different languages, ten daily newspapers and a map of London.
Of course, in contrast to looking back at history, Tom is keen to live in the present. He doesn’t even have a phone!
4. Savoy Theatre and Simpsons.
You’ll find these two gorgeous film locations next door to each other on the Strand.
The interior of the Savoy Theatre was used as the set where Kate had her disastrous audition dressed as an elf. When refurbished in 1929 it was the first public building in the world to be lit throughout by electricity. Although Kate failed here, the hotel next door is known as the first luxury hotel in the world, attracting superstars like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Coco Chanel as guests over the years.
Tom and Kate sit outside Simpsons after they have gone ice skating, scenes filmed inside the rink at used Alexandra Palace. Emilia was due to take skating lessons with Dancing On Ice star Matt Evers who signed a NDA but it never came to pass. She says she was terrified, but that Henry Golding was amazing!
Come on a walking tour with us and discover all the film locations from the movie and also a little of the real history behind them!
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on private tours. Alternatively, we have a few public tours in December 2021 which you are more than welcome to join with like minded film fans – if so, book here.