The French Lieutenant's Woman 1981

Films Set In West Dorset Part Three – Lyme Regis

Did you see my previous posts about films with scenes in West Dorset? This time we head west to Lyme Regis, most notably seen in adaptations of John Fowles and Jane Austen books, and in particular that famous scene. Why not head to Lyme Regis where you can check out the film locations in real life?

Lyme Regis

West Dorset is the central setting and a backdrop for a relentless manhunt by German agents operating on British soil in London and Dorset in the classic thriller novel Rogue Male written by Geoffrey Household in 1939. The book was reissued in 2014 to mark it’s 75th anniversary. The geography of West Dorset described in the book can be followed on a real map, including a local holloway.

Manhunt Poster 1941This first screen version, renamed Man Hunt (1941), was directed by the great German director Fritz Lang and shot entirely on soundstages and Hollywood-backlot studio sets. These were described as “hilariously inaccurate English backgrounds” in Halliwell’s Film Guide. The film is of local interest for the finale. Unlike the novel only the climactic final reel is set in Dorset, on Lyme Regis Undercliff, where cornered rogue-gentleman Walter Pidgeon cleverly dispatches smooth-talking Nazi agent George Sanders.
Peter 0Toole in Rogue MaleA more authentic remake, called Rogue Male, was produced in the 1970s by the BBC, starting Peter O’Toole.

In 2016 it was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch is to star in a new film adaptation of the book but it’s all gone quiet on this since.

French Lieutenant's Woman 1981Lyme Regis resident John Fowles saw his book The French Lieutenant’s Woman made into a classic film (1981) starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons, all filmed in Lyme Regis. One of the most memorable moments in cinema history, the scene with a solitary Meryl Streep standing at the end of the Cobb wall, in her hooded cape and waves crashing all around, made Lyme world-famous. Rumour has it that it was actually a stunt man dressed in her cloak!

Persuasion 2007Jane Austen’s last completed novel, Persuasion, is in part set in Lyme Regis. Chapters 11 to 14 are set in the seaside town with the characters, who arrive in November, describing the out-of-season holiday resort. A cautionary tale with the character Louisa Musgrove “taken up lifeless” after falling on the pavement of the Lower Cobb when jumping off steps there. The book has been adapted for film several times, all with scenes filmed in Lyme. Versions include a 1995 BBC film and a 2007 ITV one. Netflix’s version, released 2022, with modern-day language and “fleabag”-style breaking the fourth wall, filmed scenes in Lyme and Freshwater Beach.

The Boat that Rocked poster 2010The Boat That Rocked, a 2009 British comedy film written and directed by Richard Curtis, was filmed at Portland Harbour, Castletown on Portland, Lyme Regis and Kimmeridge. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost and Kenneth Branagh all play pirate radio DJ’s. It is set in the 1960s when the pirate radio stations broadcast music from ships moored just outside British territorial waters.

Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan in Ammonite 2020Ammonite (2020) is a romantic drama inspired by the life of British palaeontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and her relationship with Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), reimagined with some artistic licence as a love affair. Many of the scenes are set in Lyme Regis. The town was given an 1800s makeover for filming, including Georgian house fronts being erected in front of some of the local buildings. Scenes were also shot at Eype and Charmouth Beaches.

Lydia Eve in Bridport harbourLocation filming of Wonka (2023) took place in Lyme Regis in October 2021. Starring Hollywood star Timothée Chalamet in the title role, the fantasy musical follows a young Willy Wonka as he becomes the world’s greatest inventor, magician and chocolatier. Lyme Regis’ harbour offered the location for where the boat carrying Willy lands. On the first day of filming in Lyme Chalamet was seen in full Willy Wonka costume walking along The Cobb carrying a cane and a suitcase. He was later seen riding on top of a truck which read Moreau & Fils. Matt Lucas and Peep Show star Paterson Joseph were also spotted. Lyme Regis proved a challenging location as the working port is home to many small fishing businesses. Production had to shut down the harbour for three days, stopping all access in and out, which meant negotiating with 40 different companies to compensate for lost earnings.

Scenes were shot on the historic vessel Lydia Eva, which is the world’s last surviving steam-powered herring drifter. It was covered in artificial snow during the two days of filming. See the photo of the boat taken while it was moored in West Bay prior to it’s starring role in Wonka.

If you’ve read this and want to see some of the film locations for yourself but haven’t booked somewhere to stay, then we’d love to welcome you to West Bay Cottage. Take a look inside the cottage or head to our Enquire and Book page for availability, the rates and how to book. For more film locations in West Dorset here’s a link to Weymouth and Portland – The Finale!

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