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When Great Yarmouth was cast as ‘Wonderland’ in Danny Dyer fantasy flick

PUBLISHED: 08:26 17 April 2020 | UPDATED: 08:55 17 April 2020

The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus.

Photo: Nick Butcher
Copy: Stephen Pullinger
For:  EDP
Archant © 2008
(01603) 772434

The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus. Photo: Nick Butcher Copy: Stephen Pullinger For: EDP Archant © 2008 (01603) 772434

Archant © 2008

It’s just over ten years since movie makers descended on Great Yarmouth transforming it into a gritty underworld peopled with “weird and wonderful” gangland no-hopers and riff raff.

The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus.

Photo: Nick Butcher
Copy: Stephen Pullinger
For:  EDP
Archant © 2008
(01603) 772434The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus. Photo: Nick Butcher Copy: Stephen Pullinger For: EDP Archant © 2008 (01603) 772434

At the time the activities of the silver screen machine were big news, but few knew much about the leading man Danny Dyer.

The actor, who was still three years away from joining EastEnders, played Whitey, a time-obsessed cab driver from Wonderland - aka Yarmouth.

Malice in Wonderland, a twisted version of the Lewis Carrol classic, was panned by the critics on its DVD release in 2010.

But circus impresario Peter Jay has fond memories of the fairy-tale filming process which saw several of his properties transformed into surreal backdrops and hundreds of local extras enjoying their moment in the spotlight.

The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus.

Photo: Nick Butcher
Copy: Stephen Pullinger
For:  EDP
Archant © 2008
(01603) 772434The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus. Photo: Nick Butcher Copy: Stephen Pullinger For: EDP Archant © 2008 (01603) 772434

He said: “I had never heard of Danny Dyer, but all the girls in the box office were really excited.

“The first time I saw him come into the circus was with two minders.

“I wondered who these three people were not knowing it was him in middle.

“They used the circus as the interior of a disco and the windmill as the exterior with a big queue of extras outside and fire artistes standing on the little flat roofs.

The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus.

Photo: Nick Butcher
Copy: Stephen Pullinger
For:  EDP
Archant © 2008
(01603) 772434The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus. Photo: Nick Butcher Copy: Stephen Pullinger For: EDP Archant © 2008 (01603) 772434

“It looked good.

“In the circus they used the flying trapeze group we had performing in the disco setting, it looked fantastic.

“They transformed the look inside and put up the sign we still have over the bar saying ‘Drink Me’.

“They had collected extras for the disco scene from all over Norfolk, the only criteria being they looked weird and wonderful.

The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus.
Extra's taking a break from filming.
Photo: Nick Butcher
Copy: Stephen Pullinger
For:  EDP
Archant © 2008
(01603) 772434The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus. Extra's taking a break from filming. Photo: Nick Butcher Copy: Stephen Pullinger For: EDP Archant © 2008 (01603) 772434

“There were punks and goths and they had a catering van outside to feed them.

“My biggest memory of the whole thing was seeing maybe 150 of the extras outside in full disco and weird gear queuing up, and two old age pensioners walking past thinker they were real and I heard them say to each other, ‘There’s some really strange people in Yarmouth.’

MORE: ‘I wonder if I can find that hotel?’ - Woman’s 5,000-mile trip to stay in Yesterday movie location

“l lent them loads of my stuff to decorate the bosses lair, which was set up in an old warehouse on the South Denes.

The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus.
(left to right)  Suzanne Moore, Laura Clarkson, Sarah Hodges and Anne-Marie Woodyatt.
Photo: Nick Butcher
Copy: Stephen Pullinger
For:  EDP
Archant © 2008
(01603) 772434The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus. (left to right) Suzanne Moore, Laura Clarkson, Sarah Hodges and Anne-Marie Woodyatt. Photo: Nick Butcher Copy: Stephen Pullinger For: EDP Archant © 2008 (01603) 772434

“I didn’t have the circus museum then and the producers loved some of my bits and pieces.

“The film was strange and surreal and didn’t do well. I bought the DVD in a bargain basement for £3.

“Funnily enough I saw it last year on the Sci-fi channel - and it looked much better.

“The crew were here for quite a few weeks working out of the South Denes studio, they even had our clown car in the last shot.

The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus.
Extra's taking a break
Photo: Nick Butcher
Copy: Stephen Pullinger
For:  EDP
Archant © 2008
(01603) 772434The film set of 'Malice in Wonderland' being shot at Yarmouth's hippodrome circus. Extra's taking a break Photo: Nick Butcher Copy: Stephen Pullinger For: EDP Archant © 2008 (01603) 772434

“It’s interesting to watch now as you can recognise the settings.

“They used the outside the Carlton Hotel as a London shot and for me its nostalgic to suddenly see my bits and pieces popping up.

“The whole crew loved being in Yarmouth, just as the Yesterday Danny Boyle crew did.”

At the time director Simon Fellows, who has also made the films 7 Seconds and Blessed, told this newspaper: “It will have a terrific pace and energy with a sound and editing style that will push contemporary interpretation to the cinematic limits.”


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