Where the new Colin Firth version of The Secret Garden was filmed
PUBLISHED: 13:46 09 August 2020 | UPDATED: 11:47 10 August 2020
A new adaptation of children’s classic The Secret Garden has been released on demand with Knebworth in a starring role.
With a cast including great British talents Colin Firth and Dame Julie Walters, the latest film version of the children’s classic was released in the US on demand on August 7.
The movie was set to hit cinemas in the UK in April, but was initially delayed until August 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It will now be released later this year, and launched on Sky Cinema on October 23.
While Yorkshire was used extensively for the movie, interior scenes of the film based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s enduring 1911 children’s novel were shot on location at Knebworth House.
Scenes were also filmed at the Woodhall Estate grounds in Watton-at-Stone, Hertfordshire.
In June 2018, Woodhall Park and the grounds of Heath Mount School provided the stunning setting for the upcoming film.
The walled garden and woodland feature in the film, with a starring role for one of the 500-year-old oak trees within ther historic parkland.
From the producer of Harry Potter and Paddington, The Secret Garden tells the story of Mary Lennox, an obnoxious and unloved 10-year-old girl, born in India to wealthy British parents.
When they die suddenly, Mary is sent back to England to live with her uncle, the mysterious Archibald Craven, on his remote country estate Misselthwaite Manor, deep in the Yorkshire Moors.
Archibald Craven is played by Academy Award and BAFTA winner Colin Firth.
Firth also appeared in the 1987 TV movie version of The Secret Garden as an adult Colin Craven.
Fellow BAFTA-winner and Firth’s Mamma Mia! co-star Julie Walters plays formidable housekeeper Mrs Medlock, in a new take directed by Marc Munden and produced by David Heyman, whose credits include the Harry Potter series, Gravity, Fantastic Beasts and the recent Paddington movies.
Firth cut short a sabbatical in order to fill the role, he was that keen.
“I think Colin was really brave and didn’t mind looking wretched as Archibald,” says Munden, “and he was great at digging deep into what it must be for a man like that to be in grief.
“Archibald is a pretty hard person to like, but Colin has lots of depth to him, and brought a lot of himself to it.”
Firth is no stranger to the grounds of Knebworth House.
He shot scenes of Oscar-winning movie The King’s Speech at the mansion in 2010.
For The Secret Garden, filmmakers used the picture gallery at the Hertfordshire stately home.
With the exception of Archibald’s study, and one other ‘store’ room, filmed at Knebworth House, plus the kitchen at Osterley Park in London, all the interiors were then built as sets at Pinewood Studios.
“For the interior of Misselthwaite we wanted a big, empty, latent, haunted space for Mary to step into,” reveals Munden.
“That’s something that you see in stories like Jane Eyre and Rebecca.”
For this latest version, the movie is set just after the Second World War, in 1947, on the eve of Partition in India.
The movie’s heroine is played by talented teenager Dixie Egerickx, who appeared in The Little Stranger, and can also be seen in recent release Summerland alongside Gemma Arterton.
In the film, an inquisitive Mary Lennox uncovers family secrets, particularly after chancing upon her sickly cousin Colin (Edan Hayhurst), who has been shut away in a wing of the bleak manor house, and through her discovery of a wondrous garden, locked away and lost within the grounds of Misselthwaite.
While searching for Hector, a stray dog that led Mary to the garden walls, she also befriends local boy Dickon (Amir Wilson) who, through the garden’s restorative powers, helps her to fix Hector’s injured leg.
Once brought together, these three damaged, slightly misfit children heal each other as they delve deeper into the mysteries of the secret garden – a magical place of adventure that will change their lives forever.
As well as filming interior scenes at Knebworth House, other locations around the UK include the hidden terraced gardens of Iford Manor in Wiltshire, Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean, the subtropical Trebah Gardens in Cornwall, Bodnant Gardens near Conwy, North Wales, and Helmsley Walled Garden, a five-acre garden beneath the ruins of Helmsley Castle in Yorkshire.
“Instead of picking one or two locations near the M25, and creating a garden in a backlot, we wanted to evoke a wilder, more extensive garden as boundless as Mary’s imagination,” said producer Rosie Alison.
“And for that we wanted to film in some of the most glorious gardens all over the UK, to try and capture nature itself.”
Some critics have decried the lack of drama at the end of Burnett’s original, prompting the filmmakers to introduce a fire, to enhance the sense of urgency and danger amid the story’s climax.
“The film builds to a climax with the fire,” says Alison.
“There are echoes there of Jane Eyre, clearly such an influence on the original book.”
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