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Film turns back time as Bury’s Angel Hill returns to its Victorian heyday

PUBLISHED: 18:53 03 July 2018 | UPDATED: 18:53 03 July 2018

Shoppers watch the shooting of Armando Iannucci's new comedy drama The Personal History of David Copperfield on Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds Photo: Neil Perry

Shoppers watch the shooting of Armando Iannucci's new comedy drama The Personal History of David Copperfield on Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds Photo: Neil Perry

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David Copperfield has arrived in London or rather Charles Dickens has returned to Bury St Edmunds as writer-director Armando Iannucci brought filming of his latest film The Personal History of David Copperfield to Angel Hill.

Filming will take place all week in Bury St Edmunds in and around Angel Hill and The Athenaeum and at the atmospheric Theatre Royal. Although Charles Dickens famously paid at least two trips to Bury St Edmunds, staying at The Angel Hotel and giving public readings of his novels at The Athenaeum, this week’s filming is all about turning Bury into Victorian London.

The film stars Dev Patel, who shot to fame in Slumdog Millionaire, as the title character, alongside former Dr Who and Armando Iannucci regular Peter Capaldi as Mr Micawber, as well as Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie and Ben Whishaw. Only Dev Patel was on set yesterday.

Producer Kevin Loader said that originally they weren’t thinking of using Suffolk as a location but were just visiting locations where David Copperfield was set or Dickens had visited. “But, when we saw Angel Hill and The Athenaeum we knew we just had to use it. Also, I have never seen a more impressive coaching inn than The Angel Hotel, it’s huge and it looks just perfect for what we need.”

Loader, who produced Iannucci’s last hit The Death of Stalin as well as Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, said that the discovery of a period theatre in Bury’s Theatre Royal clinched the deal. “Today, we are filming the young David Copperfield’s arrival in London with all the carriages and horses moving about on Angel Hill. Then, at the end of the week, we are spending two days shooting at The Theatre Royal shooting two sequences which will bookend the movie.

A host of coaches and horses recreated the bustling streets of London on Angel Hill yesterday as Armando Iannucci filmed his new comedy drama The Personal History of David Copperfield  Photo: Neil PerryA host of coaches and horses recreated the bustling streets of London on Angel Hill yesterday as Armando Iannucci filmed his new comedy drama The Personal History of David Copperfield Photo: Neil Perry

“David Copperfield is a very biographical novel, so David is a writer and in one scene he goes to the theatre with some rather raucous friends and in a scene towards the end of the film he is reading extracts from his novels from the stage, on one of his reading tours.”

He said that because of the number of coaches and horses being used in the scene yesterday, cast and crew numbered over 200 people, while later in the week, the smaller-scale dialogue scenes at the theatre will only require a crew of 80.

Screen Suffolk have been instrumental in suggesting possible locations and liasing with local councils and nearby residents. Rachel Aldridge, from Screen Suffolk, said: “We were contacted Harriet, the location manager, and she told us they would love to set an important part of the film here and we made it happen.”

She said that filming in Suffolk gives film a more authentic look. “Film crews love filming in Suffolk. They are so desparate to get out of London because we can offer something different.

Producer Kevin Loader on set outside the Angel Hotel where Armando Iannucci is filming his new comedy drama The Personal History of David Copperfield in Bury St Edmunds Photo: Neil PerryProducer Kevin Loader on set outside the Angel Hotel where Armando Iannucci is filming his new comedy drama The Personal History of David Copperfield in Bury St Edmunds Photo: Neil Perry

“We exist to let film companies know what Suffolk has to offer in terms of filming locations – from squares like this, to beaches, atmospheric heritage coastline, to visually spectacular backdrops like the Waterfront in Ipswich.

“Don’t forget that film and entertainment in general is very important for the economy – it’s a major driving force, as is cultural tourism. Filming in Suffolk is good news for local business and the local economy.”

The film is due for release at the end of next year.

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