Behind the scenes of filming The Favourite movie at Hatfield House
PUBLISHED: 13:40 24 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:17 06 February 2019
Picture courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
As the critically acclaimed The Favourite hits cinema screens, we take a look at the filming of Yorgos Lanthimos’s comedy period drama starring Emma Stone, Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz, and the locations used in making the movie.
A horse-drawn carriage approaches the impressive South Front of Hertfordshire stately home Hatfield House.
A female passenger is thrown out and lands face down in a pile of mud.
If you’ve seen Fox Searchlight’s The Favourite, you will know this is a scene from a star-studded movie set in the court of Queen Anne in early 18th century England, with Jacobean mansion Hatfield House doubling up as the royal residence.
And the actress covered in mud?
Hollywood superstar and Academy Award winner Emma Stone playing a servant with ambitions.
The La La Land actress plays Abigail, who arrives in Queen Anne’s court and jockeys with distant cousin Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough, for the monarch’s attention and affections.
Broadchurch, Peep Show and The Night Manager favourite Olivia Colman plays the gout-ridden queen who keeps rabbits – she has 17 of them, one for each of her lost children.
Duck racing is also popular in her court, as is pineapple eating, while war rages against the French.
The Mummy’s Rachel Weisz plays Sarah Churchill, Queen Anne’s close friend, confidante and clandestine lover.
From award-winning Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite is “a bawdy, acerbic tale of royal intrigue, passion, envy and betrayal”, with all three female leads tipped for Oscar nominations come Academy Awards season.
Stone, Weisz and Colman have already been nominated for Golden Globes.
After wrapping filming last year, producers Ceci Dempsey, of Scarlet Films, and Ed Guiney, of Element Pictures, said: “Yorgos’ view of Queen Anne’s court in 18th century England will be a period film like no other.”
• So where exactly was The Favourite filmed in the UK?
The Favourite was principally filmed on location at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, with some scenes also shot at Hampton Court Palace in the London borough of Richmond upon Thames. The Bodleian Libraries’ 15th-century Divinity School at the University of Oxford was another location used by the movie’s makers.
The film crew took over the grounds of Hatfield House, the Marquess of Salisbury’s stately home 20 miles north of London, in the spring of 2017.
The house’s long corridors and staircases have long been favourites of filmmakers.
Producers of The Favourite used rooms such as Hatfield House’s magnificent Marble Hall, the gold ceilinged Long Gallery, the Library, the Winter Dining Room, and the King James Drawing Room among others for interior shots.
A number of the rooms were given significant makeovers for the shoot in March and April of last year, with flickering candles providing the lighting alongside natural light shining through the stately home’s windows.
Furniture, carpets and paintings were removed from some rooms, and doorways and hidden passages added to the historic mansion, which was originally built in 1611.
Sarah Cardall-Spawforth, senior operations manager at Hatfield House, said: “We were delighted to welcome the talented cast and crew of The Favourite to Hatfield House for filming last year.
“It is fantastic to be able to say that Hollywood arrived here at the estate!
“We have been fortunate enough to watch a preview of the film and those familiar with Hatfield House will be able to see some significant changes made to the both the interior and exterior of the building.
“The transformation of the house saw secret passages and doorways being added, and King James’s Drawing Room and the Library in particular were subject to a number of additions and alterations.”
She added: “It was an amazing project to be involved in and one that was enjoyed by all involved in it.”
About 85 per cent of The Favourite was filmed at Hatfield House.
• What scenes in The Favourite were filmed at Hatfield House?
The Library at Hatfield House features extensively in the film, with much of the furniture familiar to regular visitors being removed for filming of the lesbian royal power struggle.
But the distinctive fireplace is still recognisable in the scene where Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) are discussing the war against France while the Duchess of Marlborough admires a large-scale model of a new palace that the monarch is giving her.
“You are mad, giving me a palace,” says Rachel Weisz’s character to the queen.
“It’s a monstrous extravagance.”
The same spartan room is also used when Sarah Churchill starts throwing books at rival Abigail, played by Emma Stone.
The Marble Hall at Hatfield House is where visitors can normally see the famous Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.
The Virgin Queen spent much of her childhood in Hatfield, and it was in the estate’s parkland 460 years ago that she heard of her ascension to the throne of England on November 17, 1558.
The Marble Hall takes its name from the chequered black and white marble floor.
Known for using wide-angle shots, Yorgos’ film crew took advantage of the room’s distinctive look.
With its extravagant oak carvings, the room remains much as Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury, built it in 1611.
It was sometimes used as a dining room, and as a place where the Salisburys would entertain their guests with lavish banquets, dances and masques.
And this is its purpose in The Favourite, with the court dance featuring Weisz’s character Sarah Churchill and Joe Alwyn as Samuel Masham filmed in the Marble Hall.
The duck racing – with Horatio ‘the fastest duck in the city’ – was also filmed in the Marble Hall.
When Sarah Churchill wheels Queen Anne into her private quarters in the movie, the room is, in fact, the King James Drawing Room at Hatfield House on the first floor.
Again, much of the furniture and carpets have been removed and replaced with a four-poster bed and the queen’s numerous rabbits!
The house’s principal reception room, hung with tapestries, takes its name from the life-size statue of James I, presented by the King himself, which stands above the mantelpiece in the domed niche of the marble chimneypiece.
While King James I actually visited Hatfield in 1611, the room named after him is Queen Anne’s domain in The Favourite.
The Winter Dining Room, with its carved marble chimneypiece and tapestries of the four seasons, also features in the film when Abigail arrives and asks Sarah Churchill for a job.
Nicholas Hoult as Harley is also seen in this room, asking a politician holding his prized duck Horatio: “Must the duck be here?”
When Emma Stone’s character Abigail is seen sitting on the floor crying at the end of a long corridor, the Long Gallery with its gold ceiling can been seen behind her.
Sarah Churchill is also shown walking along this distinctive room, which stretches the length of the South Front.
Hatfield House’s private East Garden, which has elegant parterres, topiary and rare plants, was also used as a location, most notably for the ‘shooting’ scene involving the Lady Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone).
Designed to be viewed from the first floor of Hatfield House, the East Garden is only open to the public on one day each week – Wednesdays – during the visitor season.
The 2019 visitor season at Hatfield House opens on Saturday, April 6, when tourists will be able to follow in the footsteps of The Favourite cast and crew on a tour of the house.
The East Garden consists of formal box beds in front of the house and the 17th century ‘New Pond’, while the famous maze can be seen from a raised platform on the west side.
The Hertfordshire estate’s parkland and woods were also used for filming by producers of The Favourite.
The approach to the South Front from London is seen when Abigail (Stone) arrives by horse-drawn carriage.
This view of the house can also be witnessed when coaches are leaving the royal residence from the courtyard in front of what is the ground floor Armoury that links the two wings of Hatfield House.
Rachel Weisz is also shown riding on horseback through the Fore Street Lodge entrance to the estate, with the Old Palace – all that remains of the original Hatfield Palace where Queen Elizabeth I grew up – also in shot.
However, eagle-eyed cinema-goers will notice that Hatfield House has had a major “extension” for The Favourite, with extra wings inspired by Hampton Court Palace added by computer trickery to the side of the Hertfordshire mansion.
For more on Hatfield House, visit www.hatfield-house.co.uk
• The Favourite filming at Hampton Court
Hampton Court, with its many links to the real-life Queen Anne, was also a major location for filming of The Favourite last year.
The Historic Royal Palaces website states: “Hampton Court Palace was proud to welcome the cast and crew of The Favourite during the spring of 2017.
“Key filming locations included Henry VIII’s Kitchens, the Cartoon Gallery and Fountain Court, which are all open to the public and included in your day admission ticket to the palace.”
Producers filmed a number of scenes on site across a variety of locations, including in the palace’s Henry VIII Kitchens, which were dressed for the screen as they might have looked during the reign of Queen Anne.
The Queen actually spent time at Hampton Court Palace during her reign.
The huge Great Kitchens at Hampton Court date from the Tudor period.
They were used for scenes involving Emma Stone’s character Abigail’s introduction to downstairs palace life.
It was from these historic kitchens that Queen Anne’s court would have been served when in residence at Hampton Court Palace.
The Cartoon Gallery at Hampton Court Palace was designed for William III – Queen Anne’s brother-in-law – by Sir Christopher Wren.
The Cartoon Gallery can be seen in The Favourite when Abigail (Stone) pushes Queen Anne’s wheelchair down a long corridor, and it is also used for a number of walking shots throughout the film.
The Fountain Court is the palace’s last great courtyard and features in the film when Queen Anne leans out of a window and demands that the young group of musicians in the court below stop their playing.
• The Favourite goes on general release in the UK on January 1, 2019.