Greater Victoria is king of the castles for film locations

Fans of The Killing who binge-watched the Netflix crime drama’s fourth season got a breathtaking bonus — a surprise appearance by Hatley Castle, doubling as a U.S. military school in aerial shots.

Royal Roads University’s historic centrepiece heads a list of the region’s hottest film and TV locations, including Craigdarroch Castle, Fisgard Lighthouse, the legislature, the Empress Hotel and Bastion Square.

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It most famously masqueraded as Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in the X-Men movies. Who can forget that elaborate nighttime invasion sequence in X2, when choppers descended and rappelling SWAT teams swarmed the grounds where an X-shaped hedge still stands.

The castle more recently stood in as Queen Mansion in CW’s Arrow, and the Gardiner home in Lifetime’s supernatural drama Witches of East End. The striking location coveted by producers — who can work around unpredictable peacocks — will also be seen in Disney Channel’s 2015 film Descendants.

It has hosted royal weddings (The Duke), played an eccentric billionaire’s palatial estate (Fierce People), the gothic San Francisco headquarters for a secret society of ghostbusters (Poltergeist: The Legacy), DC Comics villain Lex Luthor’s estate (Smallville) and an ancient Romanian castle in Nickelodeon’s The Boy Who Cried Werewolf.

Hatley Castle was also penetrated by larcenous Swedes during a jewel heist sequence in 2001 for The Mole and doubled as The Magician’s House (1999) in the BBC TV series.

Before returning to play X-Men’s telepathic Prof. Charles Xavier, Patrick Stewart’s first appearance at Hatley Castle was in 1996 when it played a New England prep school for the action-comedy Masterminds. Long before he achieved fame as Mad Men’s smarmy hotshot adman Pete Campbell, a skinny teenaged newcomer named Vincent Kartheiser played a mischievous student in that film.

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“Without Hatley Castle, we wouldn’t have been able to attract X-Men,” said Victoria film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert. “Tax incentives draw producers to B.C., but locations like these bring them here.”

Royal Roads University campus services director Bonnie Nelson fields two or three filming inquiries monthly. “It’s good for our local economy to have this in our own backyard,” Nelson said. “We always look at it in the context of not creating disruptions.”

Craigdarroch Castle, meanwhile, has been doubling as spooky mountaintop mansion Shadowmire in Spooksville.

It was also the Spooky House in the 1998 family feature starring Ben Kingsley. Crews still reminisce about the black panther that impulsively urinated while descending a staircase.

Ballroom dancing sequences for Little Women were filmed there in 1994, and it was passed off as a Hollywood mansion in Stuart Margolin’s 1983 HBO crime drama The Glitter Dome. The castle was also featured in the Roger Moore movie The Man Who Wouldn’t Die; a 1999 episode of The Outer Limits starring Cary Elwes as Jack the Ripper, Take-Off, an ill-fated 1980 TV comedy series starring Phyllis Diller, and a 1981 music video in which Cheryl Ladd danced down the staircase clad in leather lingerie.

Executive director John Hughes said while Craigdarroch Castle Historic Museum Society is film-friendly, hosting shoots can be a mixed blessing. “The revenue bump is awesome, especially October through May,” said Hughes. “It’s wonderful to be associated with filming, but there’s always a risk when you invite crews in.”

Allen Lewis, vice-president of production for Front Street Pictures, said he was equally pleased shooting Spooksville scenes at Fisgard Lighthouse. “Having a lighthouse so close to an urban centre is just fantastic,” Lewis said. “We’d otherwise have to go up the West Coast Trail.”

The national historic site soon to be seen in the thriller Lighthouse, has also been featured in Stonados, Pictures of Hollis Woods, The Watchtower, and The Amazing Race Canada.

Naomi Watts played a “dream interpreter” in a Sleepwalkers episode filmed there in 1997. The late David Carradine played a lighthouse keeper there two years later in a cheesy thriller, G.O.D. (Guaranteed On Delivery), his final night of filming disrupted by an apparent suicide attempt nearby.

Film liaison Sophie Lauro said Parks Canada welcomes crews. “We [just] want to ensure there’s no impact on our visitors and cultural/environmental resources,” said Lauro, who briefs producers on location fees and filming guidelines. “If they want to drill a hole in the wall ... that’s not going to happen.”

Our most popular film locations

Here is a selective list of movies and TV shows produced around the capital region:

Royal Roads/Hatley Castle

  • The Killing
  • X-Men 2
  • X-Men: The Last Stand
  • The Egg Factory
  • The Changeling
  • The Magician’s House
  • Arrow
  • The Mermaid’s Chair
  • Masterminds
  • Impact
  • The Boy Who Cried Werewolf
  • Disney’s Descendants
  • Perfect Match
  • No Night Is Too Long
  • Lucky 7
  • The Man Who Wouldn’t Die
  • Knight Moves
  • Little Women
  • The Duke
  • MacGyver: Legend of the Holly Rose
  • Ripper
  • Seven Days
  • Witches of East End

Craigdarroch Castle

  • The Glitter Dome
  • Take-Off
  • The Outer Limits
  • Little Women
  • The Duke
  • Spooky House
  • Spooksville
  • The Man Who Wouldn’t Die
  • America’s Castles

Maritime Museum/Bastion Square

  • Cleaverville
  • Bird on a Wire
  • Murder on Spec
  • Final Destination
  • Against Their Will

Fisgard Lighthouse/Fort Rodd Hill

  • Gracepoint
  • Lighthouse
  • Sleepwalkers
  • G.O.D.
  • Spooksville
  • The Watchtower
  • Augusta, Gone
  • The Amazing Race Canada
  • Arrow

The Empress Hotel

  • Knight Moves
  • Disney’s Descendants
  • White Chicks
  • Year of the Dragon
  • Emile

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