Back in the mid-2000s, when sci-fi auteur Christopher Nolan was a promising young filmmaker with only three releases and yet to prove himself as a bankable name for big-budget studio blockbusters, Warner Bros. hired him to direct a new iteration of one of the most popular superheroes – Batman. Nolan’s darker take on the character was revered by fans worldwide, and ‘Batman Begins’ is hailed as one of the best superhero origin stories ever made.
The film follows Bruce Wayne’s transformation into Batman, the protector of Gotham City. The city is so closely tied to Bruce’s character development that capturing Gotham’s essence and recreating it from the pages of DC Comics for the big screen was a crucial task. With carefully handpicked locations and some technical mastery, Nolan created a version of Gotham that perfectly suits the film’s story. If you are curious about the filming locations of ‘Batman Begins,’ we have the details for you.
Batman Begins Filming Locations
Principal Photography on the film began on March 3, 2004, and wrapped up on September 17, 2004. The film is mainly set in the fictional Gotham City, with Bruce’s training under the League of Shadows in Tibet after initially meeting Henri Ducard at a Bhutanese prison. However, the film was shot across United States, United Kingdom, and Iceland.
The film proves that Nolan is a master of plot and camerawork and deft at location trickery. a few exterior shots of New York City are used to show Gotham City’s exterior. The locations used for the filming of ‘Batman Begins’ are detailed here.
London is one of the locations used as a stand-in for Gotham City. The opera scene where Bruce is scared by actors dressed as bats was filmed at London’s famous Garrick Theatre located at Charing Cross Road. Scenes set in the Gotham City Police Station, including Bruce’s first meeting with Jim Gordon, were filmed inside the Farmiloe Building on 28-36 St John Street in Clerkenwell, London. The scene in which Joe Chill is shot by Falcone’s men in the City of Gotham State Courts’ lobby was filmed at Senate House on Malet Street in Bloomsbury, London.
The Plateau, a restaurant in the heart of Canary Wharf, Isle of Dogs, was used to film the scene where Bruce unexpectedly meets Rachel. The same restaurant scene’s exterior shots were filmed at CityPoint, a skyscraper on London’s Ropemaker Street. The National Institute For Medical Research at Mill Hill appears as Arkham Asylum’s exterior in the film. The gothic-looking stairway inside the asylum was filmed at St Pancras Chambers, now part of the St Pancras International, a luxurious hotel on Euston Road.
The empty Event Hall at the ExCel Centre, a convention center in the Docklands area, is the filming location of the scene in which Lucius Fox and Bruce take the Tumbler for a test drive. The industrial look for Dr. Crane/ Scarecrow’s laboratory inside the Arkham Asylum was obtained by filming the scenes at the Abbey Mills Pumping Station in the West Ham area of London.
Gotham City was recreated using a combination of exterior and interior locations along with sets built at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, England. The exact address of the iconic studios is Studios Rd, Shepperton TW17 0QD, UK. Sets built by the film’s crew at Shepperton Studios in Surrey were used to film the monorail scene, Wayne Manor’s interiors, and the Bat-cave scenes. The Bat-cave set was created on the studio’s H Stage. The master bedroom and young Bruce’s room inside the Wayne Manor were sets built on the studio’s K Stage. The interior of the monorail was filmed on a set built on J Stage of the studio.
Filming also took place in Hertfordshire, a county in southern England. Hatfield House and Knebworth House are two major locations in Hertfordshire where filming took place. Hatfield House located in the town of Hatfield is a Jacobean-style house that was built in 1611. Interestingly, it is also featured in other Batman projects such as the 1989 film ‘Batman’ and its sequel ‘Batman Returns.’ Knebworth House, an English country house in the parish of Knebworth is also featured in the film. The grounds of the house are the filming location of the exterior scenes of the Wayne Manor’s gardens. Knebworth House is well known for hosting live events and concerts.
Other Locations in England
Constructed during the First World War for Airship construction, Cardington Airship Hangars in Bedfordshire was used to build sets such as the Gotham City Street where Bruce’s parents are murdered. Mentmore Towers, located 32 miles from London, in Mentmore, Buckinghamshire, was used as the location for the iconic Wayne Manor, an indispensable part of the Batman mythos.
The scene set in a Bhutanese prison where Bruce is locked was filmed at the Coalhouse Fort in the East Tilbury area of Essex, UK. The scene where Bruce first appears as Batman to intercept a drug shipment at the Gotham Docks was filmed at Tilbury Docks in Essex.
The modern skyline of Chicago was combined with London’s Victorian architecture to achieve Gotham city’s desired look. The Wayne Enterprises Headquarters building seen in the film is the Chicago Board of Trade Building located on 141 West Jackson Boulevard in the Chicago Loop area. The art-deco-style skyscraper is a famous landmark in Chicago. The rooftop scene where Bruce (as Batman) meets Jim Gordon and then disappears into the moonlit visage of Gotham’s skyline was filmed atop buildings on the south side of West Lake Street’s intersection with Franklin Street.
Perhaps the most riveting sequence in the film is where Bruce rushes to get Rachel to Scarecrow’s fear toxin antidote. The entire sequence is an exemplary work of technical prowess and was filmed partly on various streets in the Chicago Loop area, including Jackson Boulevard and LaSalle Street. The rooftop sequence begins after Bruce takes a turn into the Randolph and Wells Parking Garage, continuing along the circular ramp to emerge on the lower level of a double-decker highway on Lower Wacker Drive.
The Jewelers Building, a 40-story building at the intersection of Wabash Avenue and East Wacker Drive, stood as the City of Gotham State Courts’ exterior. The Franklin Street Bridge, which links the Loop to the Near North Side area of Chicago, served as the road to The Narrows, an area of Gotham where Arkham Asylum is located. The Amstutz Expressway, a highway in Waukegan just outside of Chicago, was used to film the Gotham Freeway.
In the film, Bruce travels to the Himalayas in Tibet to train under the League of Shadows. Öræfasveit, located on the southern side of Vatnajökull (also known as the Vatna Glacier), is featured in the film. It serves as a stand-in for the Himalayas in Tibet. Svínafellsjökull glacier, a part of Vatnajökull National Park, is where Bruce learns valuable lessons in combat from Ducard. A few scenes were also filmed on and around the glaciers in Skaftafell.
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