As the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, Edinburgh tends to be associated more with books than movies. However, it pops up fairly often on film as well. Seize the opportunity during your stay to recreate scenes of critically acclaimed and hugely popular films from a wide range of genres.
Possibly the most iconic British film of the last thirty years, ‘Trainspotting’, starring Ewan McGregor as a heroin junkie, gives a less than flattering portrayal of its Edinburgh setting. Its opening scene features two of its main characters being chased down Princes Street after stealing from newsagents, while McGregor’s voiceover gives the ‘Choose Life’ speech that has since been printed on countless mugs, posters and t-shirts. A must to recreate – although definitely don’t try to steal anything just to try to increase the authenticity of your photo.
All the Harry Potter novels were written in Edinburgh and many of the early ones were written by JK Rowling in cafes around the Greyfriars area. It seems that some of the names on the gravestones in this kirkyard have found their way into her books. While there are examples of a McGonagall and a Moodie in the kirkyard, the most famous connection is the grave of Thomas Riddell, supposedly the inspiration for the name of her villain, Tom Riddle (also known as Voldemort). That may just seem like a coincidence. Particularly hard-core Harry Potter fans will remember, however, that in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, to watch the resurrection of Voldemort, Harry gets tied to a grave. That grave is the grave of Tom Riddle, son Tom Riddle – and the grave in Greyfriars is also Thomas Riddell, son of Thomas Riddell.
This grave can be a little hard to find, however, so if you want to be shown where exactly it is you can come on our daily 1pm free tour of Edinburgh.
While you’re in Greyfriars you may want to re-enact a scene from a very different film – ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’. It does have a Harry Potter connection, being the film for which Maggie Smith (known for her role as Professor McGonagall) won her Oscar for Best Actress. It is a film about the charismatic teacher Miss Brodie manipulating her school pupils in increasingly disturbing ways, but it’s also a film that comments on the nature of Edinburgh. In one of the film’s most iconic scenes, Miss Brodie walks through Greyfriars Kirkyard with her pupils saying to them as she does “So you see little girls, you must always remember that you are citizens of Edinburgh – the city of Hume and Boswell. You are Europeans, not dowdy provincials.”
While not actually a film, ‘Game of Thrones’ has had several episodes of it have been broadcast in cinemas so on that technicality it makes it into the list. ‘Game of Thrones’ draws frequently on Scottish history. The most notable example is The Wall, inspired by Hadrian’s Wall (a Roman wall that spans Britain and, while actually all being in England, is often talked about as symbol of Scottish-English division) but also events such as the infamous Black Dinner of Edinburgh Castle, which inspired the even more infamous Red Wedding in ‘Game of Thrones’. It is therefore quite appropriate that there is currently a pop-up ‘Game of Thrones’ bar in Edinburgh. Situated in the basement of the Daylight Robbery bar on Dublin Street, Blood and Wine serves a wide variety of drinks that attempt to painstakingly recreate the wines, ales and beers served in the books. They also serve an array of cocktails, or as they call them “infusions”, so something can be found for all. With lots of props on hand you can here recreate any scene in Games of Thrones which has alcohol in it – which, let’s be honest, is all of them. Blood and Wine is open every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until the end of March.
Finally, it was recently announced that one of the biggest films of the next few years will be filming in Scotland this in a few months’ time. This third ‘Avengers’ film, set to be released in 2018, will feature scenes shot in Edinburgh. It is not yet known who - from a cast that is expected to feature Robert Downey Jr, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson – will be shooting scenes in Edinburgh, or indeed in what parts of the city they will filming. Rumours have, however, been circulating that Cockburn Street, just off the Royal Mile, may be one of the locations that is chosen. So get along there and strike your best superhero pose, and when the film comes out you can tell everyone that it was just copying you.
Find many more curiosities and anecdotes about Edinburgh in our tours around the city.