Search

‘Hampstead’ film premiere: Primrose Hill director hails Heath squatter’s lifestyle

PUBLISHED: 13:27 15 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:43 19 June 2017

The cast of Hampstead - Will Smith, director Joel Hopkins, Jason Watkins, Phil Davis, Rosalind Ayres, Hugh Skinner, Peter Singh, Deborah Findlay, Rob Festinger . 

Photo: Joanne Davidson/SilverHub

The cast of Hampstead - Will Smith, director Joel Hopkins, Jason Watkins, Phil Davis, Rosalind Ayres, Hugh Skinner, Peter Singh, Deborah Findlay, Rob Festinger . Photo: Joanne Davidson/SilverHub

Joanne Davidson/SilverHub

Hampstead was the new Hollywood for one night only, as film stars including Brendan Gleeson, Jason Watkins, Phil Davis and Rosalind Ayres sashayed down a red carpet in front of the Everyman.

The paparazzi and film crews hoped to catch a glimpse of all the cast, although Diane Keaton, who plays the love interest for a Hampstead Heath recluse, played by Brendan Gleeson, could not make it.

Director Joel Hopkins, who grew up in Hampstead and is a New End Primary school alumni, said he was very much drawn to Harry Hallowes’ story, as a man who lived in a shack on the Heath – although the film is not Harry’s biopic.

Speaking on the red carpet, he said: “Harry’s story and Harry’s way of life inspired this film and the way he chose to live his life is the inspiration.

He added: “I grew up in Hampstead, so I felt particularly responsible to show Hampstead in a good light.

“It’s hard because I’m juggling between making a commercial romantic comedy and depicting a place that I love, so I definitely grappled with that, but I hope that I got the balance right.”

Harry Hallowes, or “Harry the Hermit”, passed away last year, having lived a relatively secluded life on Hampstead Heath from 1986.

He made headlines around the world when he was threatened with eviction from his makeshift shack, in the shadow of Athlone House.

Developers Dwyer Investments, who hoped to turn derelict Athlone House into flats, tried to gain possession of Harry’s grounds.

In 2007, Harry successfully won a legal battle and gained squatter’s rights.

In the film, there is a Ham&High journalist, who is sent to cover the community campaign to save Harry’s shack.

Mr Hopkins said: “I wanted to get across that the interest in him starts quite local – with the local press, and then it gets bigger and becomes more of a national interest story.

“The beginning of his protest, [the campaign to] save his shack, I thought we should have a local reporter in it.”

Brendan Gleeson, who plays the Heath recluse, said it was important for him to have Harry’s blessing for the film.

He first tried to speak to Harry when he was reading the script, but ultimately failed.

Lingering on the red carpet, Mr Gleeson said: “There was lashing rain, I went up to see if Harry would talk with me, he didn’t want to.

“It was one of the rangers who did the intermediary, and [Harry] wasn’t that interested in Hollywood, I respected him though.”

Mr Gleeson then wrote to Harry, and got a message back from a park ranger.

He described: “When I knew that the film was about to be made, I just wrote to him, because I didn’t want to do it behind his back.

“I was a little bit worried about invading his privacy, and I kind of got a message back from him that while he didn’t want to be part of it, he was glad of the courtesy of the letter and he was okay with it.”

Commenting on how elusive Harry was, Mr Gleeson said: “More power to him. I didn’t want to rock his cage.”

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

16:15

Police are trying to find Nadia Ellewood, who has gone missing from Belsize Park.

13:35

Police chased a Volkswagen Polo across three boroughs on Monday morning after it crashed into a patrol car at low speed.

Friday, December 7, 2018

A Crouch End inventor is crowdfunding to launch an innovative and wearable air pollution monitor inspired by his own worries as a new dad.

Friday, December 7, 2018

British Transport Police are looking to speak to a man about three women being racially abused on an underground train.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Carlton Tavern could be reopened in April, nine months after the planning inspectorate told them to rebuild it.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Coffee isn’t the only thing Deniz Korkmaz is brewing up in Kentish Town.

Friday, December 7, 2018

We chat to five local designers and artists who tell us about the one thing they must have or do at home that puts them in the Christmas mood

PROMOTED CONTENT

Looking to get your child interested in a sport? Allianz Park, home to rugby union team Saracens, welcomes people of all ages to join their family of supporters and discover how their core values Honesty, Discipline, Humility and Work Rate underpin everything they do off and on the pitch.

As part of a major refurb, the London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale has renamed its three new-look function rooms to reflect the geography and rich history of the area. The largest, perfect for weddings and large meetings, is named after a Hampstead subterranean river, The Westbourne.

Londoners seeking high quality houses for sale within easy commuting distance of the capital are being advised to look north to St Albans’ prestigious Gabriel Square development.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now