EUFCN Location Award 2022 Finalist: Schlosshotel Kronberg
Located near Frankfurt am Main, Schlosshotel Kronberg once served as the retirement home for Queen Victoria’s daughter and wife of German Emperor Friedrich III. The castle was the main filming location for Spencer, feature film by Pablo Larraín.
Schlosshotel Kronberg is one of the finalists of the EUFCN Location Award 2022, the annual prize for European filming locations organized by the European Film Commissions Network (EUFCN). The location was submitted by the Film Commission Hessen.
Spencer tells the story of Lady Diana’s last Christmas before separating from Prince Charles in 1991 and gives a haunting insight into Diana Spencer’s state of mind at that moment in time. Kristen Stewart was nominated for “best actress” for her compelling performance in the role of Lady Di at the 2022 Academy Awards.
The historic Schlosshotel Kronberg, built between 1889 and 1893 in the British Tudor style, bears a strong resemblance to the British Sandringham Castle, where the Christmas celebrations of the Royal Family took place. The production designers did their best to transform the hotel into a lavish and elegant castle and the location supported the production strongly with their royal archives.
“During our research, we immersed ourselves in German architectural history and took a deep dive into various regions,” says Producer Jonas Dornbach from Komplizen Film. “Through this process, we discovered that the castle in Kronberg was built by the English princess and German Empress Victoria, wife of Emperor Friedrich III. The building was designed according to English models and its interior design was even inspired by the English original, Sandringham Manor. For us, it was the perfect location to shoot Spencer.”
Some rooms of the hotel can be recognized in the feature film by single pieces of furniture, like the reorganized bookshelves in the library, other rooms are recognizable by their strong characteristics such as the red and golden wallpaper of the Red Salon. This room, which usually serves as a lounge for elegant dinners, can be spotted in Spencer as the living room with a large Christmas tree and cozy holiday décor.
“The House of Hesse has maintained the house to a very large extend in its original set up, when it was converted to a hotel in 1952,” explains Tina Groth-Müller, Chief commercial officer of the House of Hesse. “Thus, director Pablo Larraín was able to cast in many locations without too many significant changes. Especially if you think about the Christmas dinner scene, which was filmed in the Green Salon, and the scene within the library of Empress Victoria Friedrich. I believe the authenticity of the location added the largest value to the director’s vision.”
Some other rooms are barely recognizable after their transformations: The cozy foyer of the hotel, with its black and white floor tiles, turns into a spacious and elegant room with dramatic interior. The library of the hotel, which is often used to celebrate wedding ceremonies or other festivities, is used as a backdrop of the polar opposite: a key scene in the movie, in which Diana and Charles are fighting about their marriage.
“The cooperation with the production company was great, everyone involved was very friendly,” says Dominik Ritz, Hotel director of Schlosshotel Kronberg. “A few details had to be adjusted for filming in the house, for example the sockets. The visible German sockets were either covered or visually transformed into an English version. But in most rooms, hardly anything was changed. Only a few props were set up by the film crew, for example a pool table in the library, which had to be flown in via plane from Britain and was set up by a professional.”
“For the duration of the shoot, the 120 film crew members were guests at the hotel for three weeks in spring of 2021 – this was an extremely exciting experience for our entire team,” says Mr. Ritz. “We were all very excited, as such a project is not an everyday occurrence, and we very much enjoyed our time together.”
“The paintings made especially for the film along the staircase, where there is normally a large Gobelin, were all put up for the shoot. The production company allowed us to leave the paintings hanging. These are wonderful memories for us as a team and many guests are also interested in details about the film. The nice thing is that they can also experience some of the sets for themselves, such as the historic library of the Empress, where, among other things, our original English Afternoon Tea is offered during the winter months.”
The production of Spencer was supported by the entire hotel staff as well as the house of Hesse by granting access to the premises.
“The production took place during the covid lockdown and was really challenged to ensure a smooth daily process of testing, getting the actors over to Europe, and more,” recalls Tina Groth-Müller. “The way they had handled it was very impressive.”
Spencer is a German/ UK/ Chilean/ US- Coproduction and was shot mostly in Germany. Other shooting locations include Schloß Nordkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia and Schloß Marquardt in Potsdam.
The European Film Commissions Network is a non-profit association that supports and promotes the European film industry and culture. It currently represents 95 European film commissions and film institutions from 30 different countries.