“It’s a whodunnit,” says the narrator at the start of See How They Run. “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.”
The roll call of movies that have a hotel at their hearts is long; whether Grand Hotel in 1932 or – 82 years later – Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel; all of them exploiting a hotel’s inbuilt ability to engineer suspense, drama and romance. What’s more surprising is that very few are filmed at actual hotels. Most hotel-based movies are created largely on set, apart from the exterior shots.
Exceptions to this rule exist, of course. Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation and Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster are both movies where the locations and the hotel’s own personality became part of the drama, the former at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, the latter at Parknasilla Resort and Spa hotel, in Ireland.
Now the Savoy in London is set to become one of the main characters of See How They Runalong with its Art Deco architecture and when the production team were able to take advantage of the hotel’s temporary closure under UK lockdown rules in early 2021. This film, from Tom George, creator of the cult BBC comedy This Country stars Saoirse Ronan as a detective and Adrien Brody who plays Hollywood Leo Köpernick, in London to make a film version of a popular play. He wants to produce a film version of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrapwhich has just notched up its 100th performance.
Key locations include the Savoy Court and the entrance as well as the front hall and the Savoy Suite. Since there’s no hotel that wouldn’t want to mark a cinematic connection in this way, there’s a hotel package which includes an overnight stay and breakfast, cinema tickets, a gift from the London fragrance house Penhaligon’s plus ‘The Whodunnit’ cocktail inspired by the 1953 setting of the film, a martini with pear vodka created by The American Bar’s new head bartender, Chelsie Bailey.
The Savoy has history with both Agatha Christie and her most famous play, which had – until the pandemic struck – been running without a break since its first performance in 1952. Performances have summarized at the St Martin’s Theater, where The Mousetrap has been in situ since 1974.
The producers of The Mousetrap used the hotel as a base for parties and celebrations. On Sunday 13th April 1958, producer Peter Saunders threw a party at The Savoy, to celebrate the 2239th performance of The Mousetrap the previous evening, complete with a cake weighing half a ton, made by the Savoy’s pastry chefs. At that point, The Mousetrap had become London’s longest ever West-end theater run. Among the party goers were husband and wife actors Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim, the original cast’s DS Trotter and Mollie Ralston, who are played by Harris Dickinson and Pearl Chanda in See How They Run.
There have been other parties at the Savoy to mark the play’s 21st, 25th and 50th anniversary. The play still has a clause that a film version can only take place after it is no longer being performed on stage so, for Christie fans, this will be as close as they’ll get to seeing The Mousetrap in cinematic form.
See How They Runwhich opens on September 9 in the UK and September 16 in the US