Malibu to Hertfordshire: Shooting the Comedy

WILD CHILD : Malibu to Hertfordshire: Shooting the Comedy

In order to create Poppy’s move from a Southern California high school to a British boarding school, filming crisscrossed England’s countryside, as well as the city of Los Angeles. The shots of key interior scenes took place at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire; Robin Hood’s Bay, near Whitby, North Yorkshire; and in the historic village of Haworth, situated at the edge of the Pennine Moors in West Yorkshire. This region was made famous by authors who long ago documented the angst of young women—the prodigious Brontë sisters—and is now known as Brontë Country.

In the center of Haworth on Main Street, the exteriors and interiors of local businesses were transformed to accommodate filming. These included the vintage clothing and accessories shop The Souk, which became the charity shop where the girls rummage for fashions for the dance; the Rose & Co. Apothecary, which became the liquor store where Poppy charms her way into buying a few bottles; and Emma’s Eating Parlour, which became the site of Poppy’s transformation into a lovely brunette, Christopher’s Salon.

The majority of the exterior and interior school scenes were filmed at Cobham Hall in Kent, chosen as the setting for the fictional Abbey Mount School for Girls. Today, Cobham Hall is an independent boarding and day school for young women. It is steeped in history and set in 150 acres of Grade II-listed parkland in Kent.

Dating back to the 12th century, Cobham Hall was given by Henry II to a French knight. On two occasions, the manor house was visited by Elizabeth I, and Charles I spent a night of his honeymoon at Cobham. Charles Dickens often passed through the park on his way from his home at Gad’s Hill Place to drink ale at the Leather Bottle Inn in Cobham village—frequently stopping to visit his friend, the Earl of Darnley. The Hall has been home to everything from a priceless collection of old masters to recuperating Australian servicemen in the First World War.

Roberts felt right at home on the storied grounds. Her comfort level even allowed her to nod off while she was supposed to be faking rest during the shoot. She laughingly recounts, “I actually fell asleep in one scene. We were lying in bed and before I knew it, they were cueing everyone and said, ‘Linzey?’ and she had to wake up, then ‘Kim?’ and she had to wake up. Then it was, ‘Emma? Emma? Emma?’ I just woke up and said, ‘What happened? What happened?’ They knew I fell asleep so easily; it was so embarrassing.”

The Honor Court where Poppy is given the chance to clear her name and key classroom scenes were filmed by director Moore and cinematographer Chris Seager at Balls Park in Hertfordshire. The mansion, a building of great architectural interest and beauty, was erected by Sir John Harrison in 1640 during the reign of Charles I. It is situated in more than 100 acres of parkland on the outskirts of the county town of Hertford.

A private residence in Malibu became the location for Poppy’s beachside home. There, she would torture dad Gerry’s love, Rosemary, with an outrageous welcome to the family. Additional Los Angeles filming took place at the landmark Fred Segal shops and in Paradise Cove.

All of the girls had the opportunity to bond during the rehearsal process when they learned how to play lacrosse and dance to a routine that involved krumping. As producer Phillips recalls, “We were scared to death of the lacrosse, because not only did we not know anything about the game as filmmakers, not one of us had ever played it, and none of the girls were lacrosse players. We were very conscious we needed to shoot it authentically and believably, so we went to the experts and did a lot of training with real lacrosse players. In fact, the girls can play; they’ve all grasped it beautifully.”

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