If you watched BBC One’s new flagship miniseries based on the HG Wells classic War of the Worlds at the weekend you might be forgiven for missing Birkenhead’s starring role.
The War of the Worlds started on Sunday (November 17) and stars Rafe Spall and Eleanor Tomlinson and was adapted by writer Peter Harness of McMafia fame.
Featuring Liverpool locations inside and outside St George’s Hall, Croxteth Hall, Sefton Park Palm House, Martins Bank Building on Water Street and Eldon Grove in Vauxhall, using some sites to stand in for London, the adaptation keeps to the story’s original Edwardian England setting.
Pivotal scenes were also filmed at Ainsdale woods and Formby Beach – the woods becoming an ‘impact zone’ for the Martian arrival. But it was the dockland area in and around the massive former Mobil warehouse on Birkenhead’s docks which was the location for some of the key scenes, filmed earlier this year.
For nine weeks a cast and crew of around 100 made Merseyside and Cheshire their temporary home, supported by Liverpool Film Office.
Liverpool Film Office is the UK’s longest established film office and worked in partnership with The War of the Worlds production company, Mammoth Screen, to source the locations, ensure road closures were in place and hire crew.
The War of the Worlds is one of a number of high profile productions made in and around the Liverpool city region that can be seen on screen now and coming soon, including Netflix’s The Crown, World On Fire and Peaky Blinders, Sky One’s COBRA, Das Boot 2, Universal’s Yesterday, and Entertainment One’s Official Secrets.
In an interview with Broadcast magazine (https://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/drama/the-war-of-the-worlds-bbc1/5144541.article) the programme’s producer Betsan Morris Evans described how they made the former Mobil site in Birkenhead into a fully functional temporary studio “as big as Pinewood’s James Bond stage”.
Some 50 tonnes of sand was brought in to help create the alien landscape constructing an “apocalyptic-looking” landscape of concrete and rubble outside the old Mobil building, while inside they created an Earth devastated by the Martian ‘red weed’ plant that in the original HG Wells novel comes with the invaders.
But despite creating thousands of square feet of studio space and a whole new world in the unlikely setting of the disused warehouse Morris Evans admitted there were two pigeons which stubbornly stayed in place during filming. He told Broadcast magazine: “Other than that it’s very good.”
The War of the Worlds continues next Sunday at 9pm on BBC 1 and episode one is available on iPlayer.
For more information about Liverpool Film Office see www.liverpoolfilmoffice.tv