I saw this question about real-world filming locations and it reminded me of an excellent zombie movie I saw few years ago called '28 Days Later'. In this movie, on waking up the protagonist finds himself roaming the streets of London alone. There is not even a single person.

The shots, streets, locations and backdrop looks so real I felt that it would be too much of a production cost to build entire locations (and buildings and the well-known monuments etc.) to shoot the deserted scenes.

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My question is how were these scenes shot?

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    4am on a summer Sunday, with some charming runners imploring motorists to wait a minute while they got their shot. Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 12:55
  • The direction of the light in the first and last still may be an indication of the season and time of day. I would guess that the clock face in at least the first still has been edited.
    – sdenham
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 13:50
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    At this moment, the question has 28 upvotes. Appropriate. Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 18:50
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    This time of day is known as the "golden hour" (due to the light appearing gold, usually), and is used in many, many movies when necessary for deserted streets. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_hour_(photography) tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GhostCity (short list of films included)
    – n_b
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 3:25
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    @sdenham the first picture is looking almost due West, so the shadows & clock could match if it wasn't high summer. The 3rd pic is looking North North West, so again, early morning could generate that highlight top left on the building. The sky would have to be tricked up later, sun would be too far camera right to really do that to the sky, & in fact I'm seeing a graduated filter on that shot, which could account for the colour-cast. [cont'd...]
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 10:58

2 Answers 2


Normally, movie producers would obtain permits to shut down roads around city filming locations. However, this is not usually permitted in London (even huge productions like Bond get very limited privileges in London), unlike a lot of America cities. Although, it seems that the producers were able to get some road closures, but under very limited conditions.

To get around this, the empty London scenes were shot very early in the morning - sunrise in London is about 5am in the summer, and there is a long dusk before true sunrise which gives a decent amount of light. In fact, the dusk light (the golden light you see in some of the stills you posted) was probably used to provide an additional sense of eeriness to some scenes, along with some filtering/grading to reduce its effect in others.

Before we started the main shoot we took a week in July, beginning each day at three or four every morning and would wait for the sun to come up

We were able to shoot for an hour or so before the city got too busy for us to hold back the traffic. It was very exciting, and when you see the whole of Westminster Bridge and the embankment all closed for you, and the traffic stopped, and you can't hear anything, it was thrilling but strange as well.

Source: 28 Days Later : About The Shoot

A lot of the scenes are filmed in the inner cities of Westminster and London (the City of London itself is a square mile in the middle of Greater London), and these are mostly commercial and government offices - not a lot of residential areas - so there was not a huge number of people waking up and heading to work.

However, even in the wee hours of the morning, Westminster and London and the surrounding areas are not completely empty. I think if you look carefully there is at least one brief shot of a moving bus in the distance. Mostly, the crew would reset and try for another shot if something like that happened.

I remember reading around the time of the movie coming out, that a bigger problem were drunken revellers spilling out of nearby bars and clubs - the production crew hired a number of attractive young women to distract and guide people around the shoot.

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    Your last paragraph isn't in the article. Source?
    – Wildcard
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 6:43
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    I'm trying to remember the source - it was something I read around the time of the movie coming out. I might qualify it...
    – HorusKol
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 7:10
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    It might be worth adding that some films (not sure if it was used here) also digitally remove things like inconvenient vehicles or if there are power lines visible in a historical drama or similar.
    – Tim B
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 11:43
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    Good answer, and I believe this is also in the IMDB trivia; which OP should have checked first.
    – sirjonsnow
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 12:08
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    @TimB they certainly do now - but I don't think this was used for the film in question
    – HorusKol
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 12:08

An addendum to HorusKol's answer, rather than one that would stand alone...

The bridges in London are hard to close for any length of time - as Paul D. Waite mentioned in his comment, you get lots of runners to stand in the way of people, pleading/cajoling them not to walk across the location whilst the cameras are actually rolling.

The rest of the time, the roads are open.
Depending on how long it takes, the shout will go up to "Lock off" & everybody holds their particular road until cut. Then the traffic flows again until the next take.

On the other hand, the 3rd picture is of Waterloo Place [Just North of the Mall, central London.
The Southern end of the road is an easy 'impressive-looking' road to close off for a whole Sunday, because it doesn't really go anywhere & it's simple to drive round if you really have to be somewhere obstructed by the filming.

Link to Google Streets - From approximately where that shot was done - currently showing a view from March 2017... with a unit base already taking up the street. It's used as a film base very frequently [though not when they need to shoot there, of course, then they'll use the adjacent Carlton House Terrace.]

  • Thank You, precisely my doubt - its the london bridge ! i didn't expect that the traffic could be shut down for even a while.. which is why i wondered
    – Anu7
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 5:36

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