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How 'Attack the Block' staged an alien invasion in south London

Joe Cornish reflects on the making of the sci-fi horror movie

Written by
Anna Smith

In sci-fi horror comedy 'Attack the Block', a group of south London teenagers defend their council estate against an alien invasion. Ten years' after the film’s release, writer and director Joe Cornish explains why he wouldn’t have set it anywhere else.

Why did you set the film in south London? 

‘I’ve lived in south London all my life and thought up the idea for the film while roaming around my neighbourhood. I was born and bred in Stockwell so I knew the streets where the story could happen, the buildings it could happen in and the people it might happen to. I wanted to film in as many of those real places as possible.’

Were there challenges while filming on location?

‘We made sure the gang in the film were wearing the right colour bandanas and once we’d done that, we were pretty much fine. There was a night when a woman in her dressing gown marched into shot and shouted ,“Take your poxy, two-bit film and fuck off!” We were just excited to hear someone using the term “two-bit”.’

What were John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker like on set?

‘My main memory is seeing them in full costume, loaded up with weapons and fireworks, teaching each other dance moves. And Jodie going out of her way to embarrass the young cast by using as much street slang off camera as possible – in a Yorkshire accent.’ 

Want more iconic London films? Check out our top 30 list.

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