Horfield Common and Henleaze star in heist movie

May 26 2016

Horfield Common and Henleaze star in heist movie

HENLEAZE High Street and the Ardagh Bowling club on Horfield Common are some of the settings at the heart of new comedy heist movie, ‘Golden Years’.

Fate, the financial crisis and a stubborn refusal to accept the injustices of old age have forced lawabiding, retired couple Arthur and Martha Goode (played by Bernard Hill and Virginia McKenna) into a life of crime.

Refusing to take the loss of their pensions lying down the characters decide to take back what’s rightfully theirs.

Their plan is simple: hit a series of banks and steal back their pensions along with those of their similarly stricken friends.

After all, they have the perfect disguise as no one would expect an elderly couple towing a caravan behind their sensible Rover of being a modernday Bonnieand Clyde.

John Miller, the film’s cowriter and director, explained: “The idea came out of a short story that I made about 10 years ago. I was thinking about who was the most unlikely person to rob a bank, taking a genre like a heist movie and really turning it on it’s head. Nick Knowles (DIY SOS) was interested so we got together and wrote the story over a couple of weeks.

“We wanted a script with a heart but also with comedy in it because a lot of life is funny. What was really important for me was that the characters felt real, like the people who live in my road, who would never think about robbing a bank but that’s why they get away with it. They are very ordinary folk who do this extraordinary thing because they are forced into a corner.”

John knows Bristol well, having lived in the city for 25 years and currently, in Henleaze.

He said: “I think it’s just a great place to live but also for a Director you have beautiful woodland, parks, cityscapes and urban landscapes. That’s why when I got the chance to do the film I wanted to do it in Bristol. It was a bit of a joke on set that every location was within 10 minutes of my house.”

Filming was so local that the first set up was at the Golden Hill Tesco car park with everybody getting their shopping, looking at all the film wagons, wondering what was going on. Members of the Ardagh Bowling Club took part as extras in scenes and even have their own mention in the credits.

John added: “When I was doing a lot of the writing and researching I was sitting in Henleaze High Street thinking, “Where would I set this?” I realised that the cast were almost around me, chatting.Gentle, unassuming people, of a certain age, who don’t expect much but have probably put a lot in throughout their lives.”

“When I went to the Ardagh Bowls Club I realised all the characters were there too. The bowls club was having similar issues to the one in the film because it sits on a very valuable piece of land. For a lot of people who go there, that’s their main bit of social interaction, and something that’s worth saving.”

The film has attracted an impressive cast. As well as the leads, Bernard Hill and Virginia McKenna, the list of actors includes Sue Johnston (Royle Family), Alun Armstrong (Braveheart, New Tricks), Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral), Brad Moore (The Rise), Una Stubbs (Sherlock), Phil Davis (Vera Drake), Ellen Thomas (Teachers) and Mark Williams (Harry Potter, Father Brown).

One of the joys of filming with well known actors is that sometimes the unexpected stops filming. John recalled: “We had a very funny moment with Bernard Hill when we were filming in Corn Street for one of the bank sequences at the beginning of the film. There was a tense moment as he was about to do his first bank robbery and then I heard the Lord of the Rings music. There were these two lads nearby who’d seen him and put it on.”

Film production in Bristol has increased in recent years since the opening of the Bottle Yard Studios. John was keen to use local crews as it keeps the money within the city. He explained: “Bristol’s often been used in productions to double for other places but I wanted to put it on the map and to use the proper names of where we were filming, such as Henleaze and the Ardagh Bowling Club. I’d like to see more of Bristol represented as Bristol in future productions.” Golden Years is on general release throughout the UK.