Un-belle-ievable scenes on Merton Street

Local News News

Harry Potter fans hoping to catch a glimpse of Tom Felton filming his new £6.5m movie were left disappointed as he wasn’t involved in scenes shot in Oxford.

The Draco Malfoy actor didn’t make a return to the city famous for Hogwarts when eighteenth century costume drama Belle rolled into Merton Street this weekend.

But onlookers were able to see Hollywood heavyweights Miranda Richardson and Tom Wilkinson during Sunday’s filming which also featured titular character played by rising star Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Charley Turton, an English fresher at Merton, said: “I was devastated that Tom Felton wasn’t here today”. Theodora Dickinson, second year historian, added: “I’m very disappointed – especially as we missed out on having Emma Watson at our ‘Harry Potter’ bop last Michaelmas”.


The film documents the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the first mixed race woman to be raised in the British aristocracy. Mbatha-Raw was sighted on set sporting a green cape and clutching a hot water bottle before filming.

It was also something of a homecoming for the former Doctor Who actress who was born in the John Radcliffe Hospital and grew up in Witney.

Production Designer Simon Bowles told The Oxford Student that artistic inspiration has been taken from a portrait of Belle thought to have been painted by Johann Zoffany.

Bowles told The Oxford Student: “On the surface, it is a regular period drama, and I think the rest of the world is still in awe of the British ability to make period dramas.

“The big difference for us is that we’ve got this different character, Dido Elizabeth Belle, this fantastic black woman who walks on to the screen which is so exciting visually.”

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Mbatha-Raw was joined by 52 other cast members, extras and stuntmen and an even larger crew which included several horses and chickens. As well as the Merton Street scenes, the production team also filmed on Catte Street, Queen’s Lane and inside Queen’s College.

Students living near the set had mixed reactions to the filming. Haydn Child, a fresher biochemist at Corpus said: “It’s quite cool, I guess – I find it quite exciting”. However, Ella Bucknall, Mertonian English student and Merton Street resident, was annoyed that she was stopped from walking down the Street.

She said: “It’s just really irritating. I nearly missed brunch and everything. Bloody theatre types cluttering up our streets…”

Shooting has also taken place at Kenwood House where Belle’s father John Lindsay took her to live with his uncle, the Earl of Mansfield.

The film has been written and directed by BAFTA award winner Amma Asante and is being made by independent production company DJ Films. Belle also has the backing of the British Film Institute (BFI), Manx Films and Pinewood Films and is scheduled for a summer 2013 release. 

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