There are few more magical words in the British film ¬industry than Pinewood – the name of its first home.
Cinema icons adored by millions have played out unforgettable scenes here, from James Bond to Superman, Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter.
in 2015 celebrating its 80th birthday, Pinewood Studios was founded with a mission to make movies to spread the word of God – the brainchild of Joseph Rank, a flour mill magnate and devout Methodist churchman.
The first film was completed at the 156-acre estate near Iver Heath, Bucks, in 1937. The musical London Melody, starring Anna Neagle, was a far cry from later pyrotechnics. It told the story of an Italian diplomat who falls for a Cockney street entertainer.
London Melody was the first in a long line of hit musicals including Bugsy Malone, Fiddler on the Roof, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sweeney Todd, Les Misérables and Mamma Mia! But Pinewood is perhaps best associated with the action exploits of spy supreme 007.
Sean Connery’s debut as Bond in 1962’s Dr No was filmed there. Sets created by Ken Adam included the villain’s base and the British Secret Service HQ.
The 5,490sqft 007 stage was built in 1976 for Roger Moore’s Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me – to house a huge water tank. And the studio is still home to the Bond franchise, most recently hosting Daniel Craig in 2012’s Skyfall – and Spectre, the 24th instalment, released in 2015.
From musicals to action adventures and classic British comedies, Pinewood has taken them all in its stride.
The studio helped make a star of Norman Wisdom, whose first film was 1953’s Trouble in Store.
Pinewood’s 31 low-budget Carry On films were to become a national institution. The ninth, Carry On Spying in 1964, marked the debut of Dame Barbara Windsor.
Much-loved Babs is best remembered for the saucy scene in 1969’s Carry On Camping in which her bikini top pinged open and flew off. The crew attached a line from a fishing rod to it. On the first take they tugged it so hard she was dragged face-first into the mud.
With the coming of the age of the blockbuster, Pinewood cemented a reputation for building sets that recreate any part of the world – and even create places that are out of this world.
It was the venue for 1963 epic Cleopatra, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, although -production later moved to Rome because the British weather ravaged its outdoor sets. The discarded props were used in Carry On Cleo.
In 2010, Kick-Ass, a story based in New York, was filmed entirely at Pinewood. Director Matthew Vaughan said: “We shot it all there but everyone thinks it’s an American film.”
The water tank at the 007 stage has seen lots of action. It was used to create the Greek fishing village in Mamma Mia! and the Fountain of Youth for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Daniel Craig’s underwater fight at the end of Skyfall was filmed there with a thick layer of wax doubling as the ice that he and his ¬adversary had fallen through.
Other thrills for the film created at Pinewood include the London Underground crash caused by Javier Bardem’s bad guy Silva.
Most recently the studio has helped breathe new life into Star Wars, making sets for Episode VII: The Force Awakens after director JJ Abrams decided move the series away from heavy use of CGI.
Leading ladies who got their break at Pinewood include Joan Collins, who became a Rank starlet aged 17 and made her debut in 1951’s Lady Godiva Rides Again.
She spent two years there. Studio photographer Cornel Lucas helped launch her as a superstar.
Dame Joan, 82, said: “I ¬remember endless hours where he put me in tortuous poses.
“He wanted me to look sexy and grown up. I was called the ‘coffee bar Jezebel’. I was quite bohemian. I used to go home and rub off all the make-up. I was a wicked lady – and that’s how it all started and The Bitch was born.”
One of the biggest films to come out of the studio was undoubtedly Superman in 1978. But the promise of the preview poster “You’ll believe a man can fly” presented the problem of how to do it.
A team experimented with catapulting dummies, radio controlled models and animation. Then visual effects expert Zoran Perisic realised he just had to fix actor Christopher Reeve to a pole and project a background.
He said: “I went to a screening in Plymouth and when the scene where Lois Lane falls out of the helicopter and Superman scoops her up came on, the audience stood up. I thought we must have done something right.”
It is clear Pinewood has done an awful lot right in the past 80 odd years. Many happy returns.
Many thanks to “The Daily Mirror” for permission to use the content from their article.