Watch out! There's a hitman ‘from the Heath and Hampstead Society'

Gasps in audience as clip from violent thriller is shown at Christmas party

Thursday, 16th December 2021 — By Harry Taylor

SAS: Red Notice

Sam Heughan as fearless SAS hardman Tom Buckingham 

A NAMECHECK for the historic Heath and Hampstead Society in a big budget film would normally be a boon for the conservation group.

But members were slightly surprised to say the least to get a mention in the blood-splattered thriller SAS: Red Notice, which features a high bodycount in its plot about a terrorist cell being pursued by a team of elite soldiers.

Unsuspecting members who had settled in for the society’s annual Christmas party, were shown one startling clip in which a woman is knocked out in what is supposed to be the garden of a Heathside mansion. The female guard, disguised as a pregnant gardener, is tasered in the neck by an SAS soldier who initially introduces himself as being “from the Heath and Hampstead Society” and claiming he wants to put photographs of her impressive flowers on the amenity group’s website.

After disabling her the protagonist, Tom Buckingham, played by Sam Heughan, looms over her body and quips that she had given the game away by mistakenly identifying primroses as pansies.

The film was met with gasps and some startled laughter among the mince pies and wine at Burgh House last week, after chairman Marc Hutchinson played the clip after saying the society was engaging with members whose gardens overlook the Heath, to try and get them protected against new planning regulations.

He introduced it as “some of our recent work”, joking afterwards: “Sometimes we go too far – which is why, in the spirit of Christmas, I have put a stop to the practice of Heath sub-committee mem­bers attacking local residents in their front gardens.”

The house seen in the film, while purported to be in Hampstead, is actually the writer’s villa in Budapest.

Mr Hutchinson only found out about the film, which also stars Tom Wilkinson, Ruby Rose and Highgate actor Andy Serkis, while he was channel hopping. He said producers had not been in touch to ask the society’s permission to use its name.

The Heath and Hampstead Society was set up in 1897 and will celebrate its 115th anniversary next year. It has recently received a £10,000 donation from Dartmouth Park author Hunter Davies, from the advance for his new book about the Heath.

Mr Hutchinson said: “I was in disbelief when I heard it. It’s a very violent film and I didn’t particularly like it, but the scriptwriters must have been doing their research, because there is this focus on Hampstead in the film – and they must have realised that there is a con­ser­vation group here so mentioned it because of that.”

The film is based on a book by soldier-turned-author Andy McNab – and has been screened by Sky Cinema this month after a release earlier this year.

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