'The Ipcress File': Where was the ITV adaptation filmed?

Joe Cole as Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File. (Altitude TV/ITV)
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Cold War thriller The Ipcress File gets a new adaptation at ITV this weekend, transporting viewers back to the 60s and a world of spying and intrigue.

Starring Peaky Blinders' Joe Cole as Harry Palmer and Tom Hollander (The Night Manager, Rev., Baptiste) as William Dalby, the new TV version of the Len Deighton novel spans three main filming locations.

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Here's all you need to know about where it was set and filmed.

Where is The Ipcress File set?

The story sees Harry Palmer recruited to work for spy master Dalby in 1960s London.

As well as plenty of shots of 60s London, the action takes us to international locations including Berlin, Helsinki, Beirut, Vienna and the Pacific.

But it might surprise viewers to know that although the drama convincingly appears to have visited those places, it was actually filmed somewhere completely different.

Where was The Ipcress File filmed?

Lucy Boynton as Jean in The Ipcress File. (Altitude TV/ITV)
Lucy Boynton as Jean in The Ipcress File. (Altitude TV/ITV)

The series was shot in just three locations - Liverpool, Cheshire and Croatia.

Liverpool is actually used as a substitute city for London, with Cole explaining: "We were filming in locations with some beautiful architecture and cool streets as well as in country houses. It was right in the middle of various lockdowns, but it was a nice experience filming there."

Director and executive producer James Watkins said that the series made use of the changing seasons as it worked its way through London and then Croatia, a favourite filming location for many crews as it can double for so many different places.

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He said: "We started shooting in Liverpool, which doubles for London, in February where you want the drizzle and grey leaden skies of 1960s London.

Liverpool doubled as London. (ITV)
Liverpool doubled as London. (ITV)

"Moving on to Croatia, very deliberately, in April and working our way through into June. Knowing we could work our way into the light, into the summer.

“So by the time we got to June it was like making a different show. You end up in the scorching burned out light of Beirut and then in a Pacific atoll with the light bouncing off the hardstanding of the air base, with the glistening Adriatic doubling for the Pacific. It was terrific."

Watkins, who also used Croatia to film his BBC series McMafia, said it helped to know the country so well.

Croatia provided many filming locations. (ITV)
Croatia provided many filming locations. (ITV)

He said: "To say, ‘Okay, we’re in Zagreb and we can double Vienna here.’ Or we can go to the coast and create the souk in Beirut. Or go to an airbase up the coast and create the US Pacific atoll base.

"We also have scenes of Dalby in a car going through a snowy forest in Helsinki which was shot in Croatia in February. I knew they were going to have snow coming, so I said, ‘Can we get a drone up and a car and just wait for the snow?’"

He added: "It was also such fun creating those sets in Liverpool, including a 1960s London Odeon. We had big debates about what film posters to put up. Creating those worlds is maybe a nostalgic pleasure for people that were there and a retro pleasure for those that weren’t."

How did coronavirus restrictions affect filming?

Some of the drama is set, but not filmed, in Berlin. (ITV)
Some of the drama is set, but not filmed, in Berlin. (ITV)

Many actors and filmmakers who've worked during the last couple of years will have stories to tell of how much more complicated the pandemic made their production.

However, The Ipcress File team only have positive things to say about how lockdown affected their shoot.

Hollander said: "Filming The Ipcress File was like being in a time machine. Which is true for any period drama, except this was in the middle of the pandemic and so the fictional world was so much more alive than the real world.

The series recreates the 1960s. (ITV)
The series recreates the 1960s. (ITV)

"We were filming in a deserted Liverpool, which doubles for London. A Liverpool which I hardly know but I can see is the most vibrant, lively city. Liverpool is all about people and the energy on the streets. But there was no one on the streets because of the lockdown.

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"Yet in our fictional world it was fully live action, obviously with all of our Covid protocols in place. It felt like we escaped one of the worst phases of the big lockdown. If people in the film and television industry have been working in this period, they have been incredibly lucky."

Lucy Boynton, who plays Jean Courtney, added: "We’d been in lockdown for the three months that we were shooting in Liverpool, so getting to travel (to Croatia) was in itself such a joy, then to do so to the 1960s versions of these places was pretty amazing."

Ashley Thomas said lockdown helped him stay in character. (ITV)
Ashley Thomas said lockdown helped him stay in character. (ITV)

Ashley Thomas plays Paul Maddox and said that the lockdown had helped him to immerse himself in his character.

He said: "We were in the bubble because of COVID so it was difficult to get home. But I operate like that anyway.

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"It works for me, ‘I’m in this character. I’m going to stay in character the whole time and really dive into this world.’ That’s the best way for me to work. And then I dedicate myself fully to the character and I’m not distracted by being at home. I do like working that way."

For Cole, he appreciated being able to travel to real locations while many actors were confined to green screen: "I remember when Harry had to cross the Berlin Wall from East to West. They had built this incredible set out in Croatia with these streets and the wall, the huts with the soldiers, and so on. And I’m driving through that in an army vehicle.

"That was special, for sure."

The Ipcress File begins on Sunday at 9pm on ITV.

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