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Elm Hill gets the Hollywood treatment

PUBLISHED: 07:48 06 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:57 22 October 2010

Elm Hill is transformed into a sprawling fantastical market place for the filming of Stardust.

Elm Hill is transformed into a sprawling fantastical market place for the filming of Stardust.

LORNA MARSH

It is more familiar as a postcard-perfect cobbled street, lined with pretty shops and cafés.

But yesterday the sights, sounds and smells of Norwich's Elm Hill were transformed into those of a sprawling, fantastical market place as it took its turn in the international spotlight - complete with a Hollywood star.

It is more familiar as a postcard-perfect cobbled street, lined with pretty shops and cafés.

But yesterday the sights, sounds and smells of Norwich's Elm Hill were transformed into those of a sprawling, fantastical market place as it took its turn in the international spotlight - complete with a Hollywood star.

Hobbling down its clumsy cobbles, Claire Danes, who rose to fame as the star of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, was being filmed for what is expected to be one of next year's biggest blockbusters.

She was appearing in scenes for Stardust, along with its lead Charlie Cox. But while rumours flew that its biggest stars, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert de Niro, would also be in town, they were nowhere to be seen.

Weeks of anticipation and days of painstaking preparation, which has seen the historic street altered beyond recognition, culminated in one night of shooting into the early hours of this morning - all for a scene that is eventually set to only last a matter of minutes.

Wooden market stalls selling ornate "fairy" jewellery, animal furs, wooden carvings, baskets and brightly- coloured silk vied for room along with more than 100 extras dressed in outlandish costumes. And authentic medieval-type market smells were provided by horses accompanying a gipsy caravan.

The Britons Arms coffee shop became the Slaughtered Prince inn, complete with appropriate bloodthirsty mural painted on its wall above a hastily erected thatched awning above a false front. Down the road, Strangers Hall has taken on a new guise as the inside of the inn. A spray of black paper pulp and a lick of dirty gold paint have aged the buildings even beyond their actual years. The only reminders of the 21st century were the yells of 150 crew members resounding against the walls, huge floodlights and a plastic green screen which will be turned into an archway in the middle of a wall at the bottom of the hill, all thanks to the miracle of modern film technology.

Computer-generated imagery will also create background fairy tale castle turrets to complete the transformation of Elm Hill into a town in the fairy kingdom of Stormhold, where hero Tristan Thorn (Cox) is searching for a fallen star for his beloved, played by Sienna Miller. The star eventually appears as a young woman with a broken leg - the hobbling Danes.

Mathew Vaughn, who is married to Claudia Schiffer and whose debut was Brit flick Layer Cake, has adapted the film from the prize-winning Neil Gaiman grown up fairy tale of the same name.

Norwich was handpicked over candidates in Romania, France and Germany and will star alongside locations in Iceland and the Isle of Skye.

Both Sue Skipper, who owns the Britons Arms with sister Gilly Mixer, and Christina Morris, owner of Elm Hill Craft Shop, called for Norwich to have a special screening of the film when it is released to celebrate its part in it.

Ms Skipper said: "It has been really interesting to see it all happen, we have been treated very well by everyone. What has really been interesting is that this is a stunning building which has been stunning for centuries but it is only when a film crew moves in that it has this much impact on the citizens of Norwich because of the whole nature of celebrity, which I do find a bit sad."

Ms Morris said the film would raise Elm Hill's profile and also might encourage local people to "cherish" it more. She added: "What is wonderful is to see it being brought back to life as the bustling street it would have been in the 19th century."


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