Batman’s Crib: Inside Wollaton Hall, the real-life Wayne Manor
NOTE: This article contains spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises.
It’s not often that the biggest film in the world is filmed on your doorstep. Last summer, though, Wollaton Hall in Nottingham, just a half-hour’s drive from Kinnemaniac HQ, doubled as the rebuilt Wayne Manor, and welcomed Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard through its doors to film scenes for Christopher Nolan’s third and final Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.
At the time, I fancied my chances of a set visit but was politely rebuffed by the film’s unit publicist. The set was completely closed, the grounds to the Hall barred to the public for several weeks. Apparently, that didn’t stop costumed fans from trying to break in (something that seems far less comical now, in the light of the tragic events from Colorado) but the secrecy makes sense now that the film is out. We’d have been talking major spoilers had anything leaked.
[And even now, if you've not seen The Dark Knight Rises, tread carefully reading this article. Consider this your SPOILER WARNING.]
Anyway, not to be deterred from visiting the set, I did the next best thing. I waited until I’d seen The Dark Knight Rises and then took my camera to the location to marry up the real-life Wollaton Hall as best I could to what happens in and around Wayne Manor in the film.
Why Wollaton Hall? Aside from its architecture being an excellent match for the “original” Wayne Manor (in reality, Mentmore Towers in Buckinghamshire) which burnt down at the end of Batman Begins, the house carries a shedload of history that must appeal to Christopher Nolan’s tastes. Built during Elizabethan times, Wollaton Hall actually survived a fire in the 19th Century, and was billeted soldiers and prisoners-of-war during WWII. Shakespearian heritage, wartime activity, flames… It’s almost too perfect.
Warner Brothers paid a substantial, six-figure sum to film on the property, a fee that included extensive redecoration of several rooms to make them ‘camera-ready’ because Wollaton Hall actually doubled as the interior of Wayne Manor in many scenes, as well as the outside.
This is most apparent in the use of Wollaton Hall’s Salon Room to double as Wayne Manor’s East Wing. So when Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) ‘break into’ Wayne Manor, Wollaton provides the exterior and interior sets. Here’s how the outside looks:
Apparently, the entrance hall doubled as the front of Wayne Manor, although the glass-fronted visitor entrance at Wollaton Hall make it virtually unrecognisable from those opened by Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) in the film.
Other notable interiors included the kitchens, comprehensively changed from their usual appearance in period dressing in order to show Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) feigning employment as a maid in order to gain access to Bruce Wayne’s safe. However, visitor access to the kitchens is limited to a twice-daily tour, which I missed.
The first and most prominent exterior sequence takes place in the gardens at the back of Wollaton Hall, where the elite of Gotham City enjoys a party while the reclusive owner watches from the rooftop.
The photo at the top of this article shows a view of the house as the partygoers would have seen it – you’ll have to imagine Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) giving a speech in front.
From the house, here are side-by-side comparisons of the set ready for filming, and how it looks normally. Sadly, the fountain was an addition for the movie; in real-life, it’s a neglected puddle of swampy water.
The final scene shot at the house showed Alfred, Gordon and Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) paying their last respects at the graveside of Bruce Wayne. In reality, there is no graveyard at Wollaton Hall; the entire thing was mocked up with movie magic. What’s more interesting is that, in recognition of the grave being a huge spoiler, the set was dressed using alternative details and only switched over at the last minute for shooting. Even with that much security, Nolan was taking no chances.
Here’s how it looks in real life.
Nottingham City Council has capitalised on the arrival of The Dark Knight Rises in cinemas with a number of Bat-themed gestures, although perhaps not as many as you’d expect from such a major point of interest to the movie’s fans.
The most obvious flourish is a new logo, which transforms Wollaton Hall into as much of a Batsignal as they could legally get away with.
Regardless of how Bat-shy it is, Wollaton Hall is well worth a visit, and you can have fun pretending it really is Wayne Manor. Who knew, for example, that Bruce kept a menagerie of stuffed animals? In another life, he might have been Mooseman.
Tagged Superhero movies