Unbelievable Mr X: film blogger

16 Jan

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story. Xavier Gomez, 39, better know as the Unbelievable Mr X, lives off Liverpool Road, N1, and writes a wonderful blog about films that he’s discovered were shot in Islington. Did you know that Chapel Street Market’s McDonald’s is often loving it on TV? Or that Fever Pitch, Love Actually or the classic Ladykillers were filmed in the borough? Well, maybe you did, but the Unbelievable Mr X (X for Xavier) has a way of spelling it out via words, stills and a location map. Here’s your chance to catch up with Islington’s lights, camera, action. Interview by Nicola Baird

The Unbelievablel MrX, Xavier Gomez, likes films and Islington so much he blogs about them at xxx

The Unbelievable MrX, Xavier Gomez, likes films and Islington so much he blogs about them at     the unbelievablemrx.wordpress.com

What made you focus on Islington?

Amongst the reasons why I moved to Islington was the fact that in many ways, it did not feel like a big city, it still has a ‘village’ atmosphere, and you could find pretty much everything here without needing to travel for hours.

However during the week, I wake up, take public transport to go to work, come back, maybe do some shopping and that’s it. To use a French expression: Metro-Boulot-Dodo (Tube-Work-Sleep).

This made me realised that I hardly knew my borough. For many years I had been keen on movies and film locations, so I thought that a good way to discover my borough would be through the movies, series and adverts filmed on my doorstep!

What’s the most fun part of the film research?

They are two fun part of the film search. Once you have come across a film and location I like to watch the movie looking at the background, the bus numbers, road signs, street names, etc. Sometimes the location is only on screen for a couple of seconds, others you get to see it 2-3-4 times.

Then, once you think you have spotted it, the part I most enjoy is walking across the borough for hours (usually a 5-6 hour ‘expedition’) to try to identify such film locations and take pictures. Sometimes you spot it straight away, sometimes you struggle: the area has undergone redevelopment, the colours have changed, movie was shot at night, etc. Not to mention when the Art Department or the Special Effects people have modified it so much that it is hardly recognisable.

But I get to discover parts of Islington I hardly knew, which was the whole point.

Why do so many films have Islington locations?

That’s a good question and I do not know the answer to this to be honest. On one hand, London is a town where many many films are made. Many film studios exist (some no more such as Islington/Gainsborough Studios, Highbury Studios but at a time where everything was done precisely in those studios).

However, to look at the spread of such locations across Islington is interesting. To date, I have identified about 60-70 locations and there are great differences from one area to another. For example, hardly anything around Tufnell Park and Archway. Maybe – hopefully – someone reading your blog will prove me wrong. Angel and Holloway feature regularly on screen and have done so for decades but, the champion of them all is Clerkenwell. Clerkenwell combines offices, houses, galleries, council estates, parks, all within seconds of each others and, here comes the bonus for film crews… at the weekends Clerkenwell is empty: ideal for large crews, equipment, parking space for all the cars, vans and lorries.

Do you just blog about film in Islington?

I would love to be involved in more cinema and creative events, so another and very similar blog I write is my Hollywood on the Italian Riviera film tourism project.

Back in 2009 I travelled to Liguria, on the north-west coast of Italy for the first time (my partner is from there). Following this I started Hollywood on the Italian Riviera. This was about the 1961 rom-com Come September starring Gina Lollobrigida, Rock Hudson, Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin filmed in Santa Margherita and Portofino.

To date, the project has resulted in a first exhibition in Islington (La Divina Restaurant) in July 2012. I hope more will come and in particular I hope to organise one back in Italy where the film was shot.

From January 2014 Hollywood on the Italian Riviera project will cover other movies filmed in Liguria like The Barefoot Contessa with Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart, Riviera with Martine Carole and Raf Vallone, or Hitchock’s 1925 The Pleasure Garden (a Gainsborough production – Islington connection here!) to more recent movies such as The Bourne Identity with Matt Damon, Genova with Colin Firth and the soon to be released Grace of Monaco starring Nicole Kidman. So, if people fancy a bit of sunshine to forget the grey windy days we have…my other blog.

Why did you move to Islington?

My French mum and Spanish dad brought me up in France. I have now been living in the UK for more than 10 years. I first landed in Bournemouth, Dorset and then moved to London: Stoke Newington, South Wimbledon, and Islington since 2009.

I moved to Islington to move in with my partner. I knew the area quite well from the time I lived in Stoke Newington and I was working in Old Street so… plus, you never know if with such an international football team, Arsene Wenger is not going to need a personal French-Spanish-Italian speaking Communications staff!

What do you like doing in Islington? 

What I really like is the fact that you find everything here, there is no need to go to central London or an out-of-town commercial hub. Another aspect I appreciate, and that I hope Islington will retain, is that there are lots of independent shops and restaurants – some of the ‘usual suspects’ but not too many.

Shepherdess Café (221, City Road) https://www.facebook.com/ShepherdessCafe

Good example of a local traditional English breakfast place with its own identity (love the painted curtains). I used to go there regularly when working around Old Street. Less so now but…I can boost to have my cuppa at the same table than Oscar and Bafta winners Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal – post coming soon on my blog!

La Divina Restaurant (134 Upper Street) http://www.ladivina.co.uk

Family-run Italian restaurant that got me as soon as I walked in for the first time. A Vespa table, half a Cinquecento car on the wall, and posters after posters of classic Italian and American movies. If to this you add that in July 2012 they agree to let me remove half their posters to organise my first Hollywood on the Italian Riviera exhibition so… Very much my ‘local’. If of interest, Pictures of the launch are available here

Screen on The Green: I don’t go to the movies as much as I used to but when I do, I very much enjoy going to the Screen on the Green, one of the UK’s oldest cinema (celebrated 100 years in 2013!)

Candid Café (behind Angel Station) – If I can grab a table by the window on a sunny autumn-winter day, this is where you’ll find me masterminding my next ‘Islington expedition’.


20130720_152428Raabs The Bakers (136 Essex Road – nearby Cross Street) To re-use an English expression this time: You can take the boy out of France but you can’t take France out of the boy! A good old bakery, no fancy packaging no frills, simply a good old range of breads.

Waterstone’s Love pottering around the bookshop in particular on Sunday mornings. Shame they don’t have pictures on the walls of their Collins Music Hall days though – or that could be another exhibition to organise!

Please offer a quiz question for Islington film buffs
in which movie you can you spot Liam Neeson walking out of Angel tube station? And towards which other Angel location is he heading? It’s a post I have ready and ‘coming soon’ on my blog.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to mention?

Through the blog I obviously wanted to discover the borough but I would hope that some people might be keen to do the same hence why I have created an Islington Film Locations Map which I get to update every week with the relevant post & location. You probably saw it on the blog but it you think this might be relevant.

Map: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/viewer?mid=z8U8oW5wY_vQ.k3fiQaZZ_iR4&authuser=2

Also, I would be keen to hear from people in the borough who have been in one way or another involved with a film location: house owner, business owners, etc.

Of particular interest maybe, people who used to live around Frederica Street in 1954 to be precise. When the filming of The Ladykillers was taking place, the crew used the houses of local residents for ‘costume, make-up rooms’ – no bug lorries back then. Once filming was completed, Ealing Studios organised a big Tea Party for all and the cast attended it!

Over to you

If you’d like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know, via nicolabaird.green@gmail.com. Thank you. 

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right), @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z list of posts, or the A-Z of jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola


2 Responses to “Unbelievable Mr X: film blogger”

  1. The Unbelievable Mr X January 18, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    Reblogged this on Film Tourism and commented:
    A big thank you to Nicola Baird for this brilliant post on our Islington Film Locations adventures!

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