Twickenham Studios at Oscars Time
The Baron finds it rather wonderful having a film studio as a neighbour, particularly when it’s one of the world’s great film studios, and especially when it’s Oscars season. There’s something soul-stirring about watching the ceremony while recalling the many previous winners who have employed the technological wonders that continue to prosper on your doorstep. Twickenham Studios has operated in the same location at The Barons, just across from St Margarets railway station, for over 100 years. It has a golden history that stretches from the silent screen through to today’s digital blockbusters, and its stages and theatres have played host to stars ranging from Ellen Terry and Ivor Novello, through The Beatles and Catherine Deneuve, to Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman. Many of the world’s great directors have chosen Twickenham Studios as their place of work, including Richard Lester, Richard Attenborough, Roman Polanski, Karel Reisz, Ridley Scott, Stephen Spielberg and David Lynch. They come for the technical expertise, the London location and the intimate atmosphere of a boutique studio, although David Lynch suggested in an interview with Time Out that there might have been other attractions: “During post-production of The Elephant Man I moved to Twickenham and I would go to the local Peking Chinese restaurants. I was in seventh heaven every time I had the crispy-fried seaweed: one bite of that and you leave your body.” Like all film studios, Twickenham has had its share of ups and downs, but it has always evolved and adapted to retain and regain its place at the forefront of television and film-making technology. Today, it is once again a thriving business with three sound-proofed stages. Stage One is 7,500 square feet and includes a water-tank; Stage Two measures 2,000 square feet and can be joined with Stage Three into an L-shaped set; and Stage Three, at 5,551 square feet, has played host to Polanksi’s Repulsion, Reisz’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Spielberg’s War Horse. In addition, there is a labyrinth of dressing rooms and star apartments, wardrobe and art departments, and suites of offices. Then there are Twickenham’s award-winning post-production facilities. Theatre 1, fitted with the latest Dolby Atmos equipment, is one of the world’s leading dubbing theatres. Theatre 2 can create a sound mix for the IMAX experience, and be combined with Theatre 1. Meanwhile, Theatre 3 is both where the actors re-record their dialogue or ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement), and where the Foley team create and record sound effects ranging from the quietest detail to the loudest explosion. Alongside, there are 40 custom-built, air-conditioned editing suites. Recently, the theatres have been used for Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom, Monuments Men and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. So, as Eddie Redmayne polishes his well-deserved Academy Award (and we recall his scenes in My Week With Marilyn shot at Twickenham!), The Baron glances out of his window at the latest comings and goings of technicians and equipment, directors and artists. And he feels that sense of wonder and of wondering. What’s the film? Who are the stars? What are they building in there? And will we be celebrating another piece of home-grown cinema history at next year’s Oscars?