Where Is Godwin’s House In Poor Things? (& More Filming Locations To Know)

By Olivia Emily

6 months ago

Inside the surreal world of Poor Things

Emma Stone has been plucking up prestigious awards left, right and centre for her part in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things – and it’s certainly a movie like no other. A large part of the mind-boggling weirdness is the surreal, technicolour settings, from sun soaked Lisbon to gothic wintery Paris. Here are all of the Poor Things filming locations to know, including which (if any) are actually real.

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Poor Things Filming Locations

Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in POOR THINGS

Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in POOR THINGS. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

What Is Poor Things About?

Poor Things follows Bella Baxter (Stone), a Frankenstein-like woman reanimated with the brain of her unborn child and reared by the monstrous figure of Godwin Baxter, whose own body is a collage of experiments conducted by his dead surgeon father. Bella grows from babbling, stumbling toddler to rebellious teen, desperate to escape her foster father’s confines – a house that is itself a marvel (more on that below). When posh, dandy lawyer Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) takes a shine to Bella, she seizes the opportunity to escape with him, and the two head on a grand adventure, beginning in Lisbon.

Without venturing too far into the plot (and, subsequently, spoilers), what ensues is a bizarre tour of Europe, with interestingly art-infused representations of some of the continent’s oldest cities: Lisbon, Alexandria and Paris. But we begin in Godwin Baxter’s House…

Ramy Youssef and Willem Dafoe in POOR THINGS

Ramy Youssef and Willem Dafoe in POOR THINGS. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.© 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

Is Godwin Baxter’s House Real?

No, Godwin Baxter’s house isn’t real – it was created on a set for the film, including the exterior. The production designers really got creative when designing the house, turning a Victorian-looking townhouse – which is seemingly ordinary from the outside – into the topsy-turvy world of his mind. Squishy floors, walls lined with plates, bizarrely steep stairs, and oversized chairs and cutlery perfectly marry Baxter’s higgedly-piggeldy life (and form) with Bella’s childlike wonder.

‘The house was from Baxter’s mind,’ production designer Shona Heath tells IndieWire. ‘We thought that, being the architect of his own house and his own home, he would have approached it like he approached his subjects. We built with cues from the script, really, to add sort of humour and detail that would make our world something else.’

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

With wobbly ceiling moulding reflecting organs to jars of formaldehyde-encased organs and literal cadavers, the house is a body of its own. According to Heath, as much texture was packed onto the set according to Lanthimos’ brief and desire to film on an ultra-wide angle 10mm lens. ‘[That] causes quite a lot of problems, because the ceiling becomes as important as the walls, and Yorgos was very, very specific that he wanted a lot of texture,’ Heath explains in an interview with the BFI. ‘We were trying to avoid straight lines, because straight lines in rooms [shot with a] wide-angle lens warp in not such a beautiful way. So we were trying to make the ceilings round or curved, make the doors have unusual shapes. It made the house feel engulfed and womb-like.’

‘The stairs were fairly dangerous, and there was a sort of gangway that made no sense,’ she continues in IndieWire. ‘There were tiny viewing galleries to view Bella from outside her room, and the roof of the atrium in the hallway was like the roof of a mouth. It was very bodily and the lounge had two gigantic, sculptural ears interlocking, and the floor was kind of squishy because we thought it would be fun to add this kind of weird slowness when people walked or moved in that space, like another dimension. It drove everybody crazy, and I don’t think it made Robbie [Ryan; cinematographer]’s life very easy.’

Where Was Poor Things Filmed?

Poor Things was mainly filmed in Budapest – on soundstages at Origo Studios (for London, the ocean liner, the Alexandria hotel and slums, and Paris) and Korda Studios (for Lisbon).

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2024 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

Was Poor Things Filmed In Lisbon?

Poor Things was not really filmed in Lisbon. Instead, a set of the city was created for filming. ‘Although it was a very big set, we had to get a sense of a whole city in a relatively small place,’ production designer Shona Heath tells Conde Nast Traveller. ‘So we spliced and chopped up lots of elements and textures of Libson’s and put it in a condensed area.’ This is why it almost looks like Bella is clambering around a vibrant playground.

Though Poor Things wasn’t filmed in Lisbon, the set draws inspiration from the city’s vertical nature, with hilly streets and staircases navigated, in this steampunk retro-future, by flying trams (in the real Lisbon, old wooden trams clamber up and down the streets beside the people). When Bella climbs to a viewing point (and, ahem, vomits), it resembles the city’s classic miradouros – scenic vantage points from which to view a sweep of terracotta roofs. This one, in particular, looks just like the Miradouro das Portas do Sol.

‘Lisbon’s main purpose and problem was that Bella had to get lost in the city,’ Heath tells CNT. ‘Yorgos never wanted us to dictate to him what the route would be, he wanted a choice of routes, and so we built a little maze where you could get lost in different ways—up one staircase, into an alley, I never knew where I was myself and we designed it! Very quickly, we realised that Lisbon’s trams would not fit on the ground and so we put them in the air. It sort of designed itself – once we knew what we’d have to fulfil.’

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

The Real Locations

‘Probably only five percent of the whole film is in real locations,’ production designer Shona Heath told Conde Nast Traveller. These are:

  • The medical schools (‘The London medical school was in the old television building right in the city center, not far from where Parliament is,’ production designer James Price told CNT)
  • The church (the crypt of a real church on the outskirts of Budapest)
  • The woods (located a 20 minute drive from Budapest)
  • The interior of Lord Blessington’s house (Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library, Budapest)

That said, efforts were made to make everything as unrecognisable as possible. ‘The conceit was that we’d make anywhere that was real feel like a set, because Yorgos really wanted to make a 1930s studio picture as if it were made with today’s technology,’ explains Price.

‘We had to put the skies there, whether they were hand-painted or huge LED screens,’ adds Heath. ‘We shot ink tanks and cloud tanks to create skies as well. It’s never what you think.’

Margaret Qualley, Willem Dafoe and Ramy Youssef in POOR THINGS.

(From L-R:) Margaret Qualley, Willem Dafoe and Ramy Youssef in POOR THINGS. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

Is Lord Blessington’s House Real?

No, Lord Blessington’s house is not real. A miniature was created for the scene-setting shots, although the interiors were shot in a real stately home: the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library, a beautiful public library situated in a former palace dating from the 19th century.

Visit: Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library, Budapest, Szabó Ervin tér 1, 1088 Hungary

What Is The Boat Inspired By?

Oh that weird, apparently steam-powered cruise. It looks part spaceship, part submarine, but it was surprisingly inspired by Kew Gardens, Heath says: ‘We wanted the cruise ship to be this giant, moving Kew Gardens. The Victorians loved pomp and the ridiculous, and that’s when Duncan really started imprisoning Bella. We liked this idea that the ship was a cage for her, with the structure of the glass house in Kew Gardens. We put a lot of absurd ideas that would never work in a ship – on the floor, there was a huge marble design of a tiger attacking a goat. Even the bannisters were designed to show monsters caught in fishing nets.’

In reality, the boat was a colossal set constructed for filming and filled with bespoke furniture. According to the BFI, there was a ‘towering, curved LED screen, wrapped around the boat’s hull and playing a looped video of lapping waves and an otherworldly sunset’ – so it’s not all post-production CGI.

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

Is Poor Things Based On A Book?

Yes, Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things film is based on Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel of the same name. Upon its release, it was lauded by critics, bagging the Whitbread Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize. Sadly, Gray died in 2019, before Poor Things had even started filming. But Lanthimos met Gray as far back as 2012 to begin adaptation discussions.

While Gray’s novel is set in Glasgow, however, Lanthimos moves the film to London. Why? Lanthimos recently told Little White Lies that the decision stemmed from telling the film from Bella’s perspective (where the book is told from Max McCandles’ perspective). ‘In the novel, the Scottish issue feels like a different part of the book, and I felt it would just be like trying to make two different films if I tried to put it into this version of the story,’ Lanthimos says. ‘Once we decided that the point of view of the film was going to be Bella’s, and it was going to be her story and her journey, and working with an American cast, it just made more sense to contract things.’

Where Is Poor Things Streaming?

Poor Things is still in the cinema, but we expect it to be available to stream on Disney+ later this year.