The Dreamlike Tower Bridge From Poor Things Was Almost Real

The Dreamlike Tower Bridge From Poor Things Was Almost Real
Emma Stone and Yorgos Lanthimos standing on the side of an ersatz Tower Bridge
Emma Stone and Yorgos Lanthimos on the set of POOR THINGS. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

Emma Stone just won a deserved Oscar for Best Actress in Poor Things, a sublime movie which opens with a young woman leaping to her death from Tower Bridge.

It'll doubtless go down as an iconic moment in film history, yet this isn't the Tower Bridge we know.

In director Yorgos Lanthimos's dreamlike London, things are topsy turvy. Bella Baxter's saviour/re-animator Godwin Baxter lives in a surreal pink mansion that makes the Cosmic House look practically dour. We also get a couple of wonderful panoramic shots of an steampunk Londonscape, airships drifting through the skies, and a super-lambent version of St Paul's, glowing from within.

Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo sitting on a rooftop set, with the bridge behind them
Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo on the set of POOR THINGS. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

And then there's that bridge. Playing a key setting at the beginning and towards the end of Poor Things, it is undoubtedly Tower Bridge: it's got the two castle-like towers, its got the blue and white paint job (which is actually a late-20th-century thing) — it's even got the self-same geometric balustrades (see the top image).

Yet that huge arched span in the centre of the bridge looks more like the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle or Porto's Luís I Bridge (see the background of the above photo). However, Poor Things' riff on Tower Bridge (we reckon, anyway) is a nod to Horace Jones' original Arch/Bascule design, entered as part of a competition, and summarily rejected in 1878. The entire competition was then scrapped the following year.

A bascule bridge with a arched span in the centre
Alternative Horace Jones' alternative Tower Bridge design. Courtesy of London Metropolitan Archives

But that wasn't the end of Jones' vision. In 1884, Sir John Wolfe Barry took the design and modified it, coming up with the Tower Bridge we know and love today. (Barry, if you like, reanimated the original bridge, just like Godwin Baxter reanimates the person who becomes Bella Baxter.)

It seems, then, that Yorgos Lanthimos has created a parallel London in which Jones' original design got the green light. (And in which you might run into a chicken with the head of a pig.)

You can see more stills of the bridge here and here. And we'll update this article if we can get confirmation from the film's production team that Horace Jones' original span is indeed the inspiration.

In the meantime, if you've not yet seen Poor Things, it's on at various cinemas, and available to stream on Disney+.

Featured image: © 2023 Searchlight Pictures/London Metropolitan Archives

Last Updated 19 March 2024