The Dig: did the movie film at Sutton Hoo, and other locations seen in the film – and when it’s released on Netflix

The new film stars Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes, and is based on the historical book of the same name
Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty and Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown in Netflix's, The Dig (Photo: LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021)Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty and Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown in Netflix's, The Dig (Photo: LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021)
Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty and Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown in Netflix's, The Dig (Photo: LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021)

The latest noteworthy film release to hit Netflix is The Dig, a tale of archeology and romance set against the backdrop of an impending global conflict, centred around the famous Sutton Hoo excavation of an Anglo-Saxon burial ship in Suffolk.

It's a true story, though the film is based on the novel of the same name by John Preston, itself a romanticised and fictionalised account of events.

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Ralph Fiennes plays Basil Brown, a self-taught, working-class, pipe-smoking archeologist hired by terminally-ill widow Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), who is convinced that treasures lie beneath the surface of the grassy burial mounds on her estate.

When Basil uncovers a site of great historical importance, British Museum archaeologist Charles Phillips (Ken Stott) and various members of the London establishment descend on Sutton Hoo to stake their claim to a site of national interest.

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But was it shot on location? And can East Anglian natives expect to see some local landmarks on screen?

Here is everything you need to know.


Was it filmed in Suffolk?

While the film is set in Suffolk , a “lot of it” wasn’t actually filmed there, according to Screen Suffolk operations and business development manager, Rachel Aldridge.

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That said, there are still plenty of on location moments weaved throughout the film.

The county was the first place the production visited, “because they really wanted to set the tone for the film, gain inspiration from it… so they all had it in their mind so they knew what they were trying to achieve in the look of the whole film.”

“The film opens with a shot of Ralph on his bicycle cycling through the Suffolk countryside, getting on Bawdsey Ferry,” adds Aldridge, and indeed the real Bawdsey Ferry – which transports foot passengers and bicycles across the River Deben to this day – features.

Where else was it shot?

RSPB’s Boyton Marshes east of Ipswich also features, including a certain brick structure which will be recognisable to Ed Sheeran fans – it also made an appearance in the Suffolk local’s ‘Castle on the Hill’ video.

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Landscape shots were filmed around Snape Maltings – now an arts complex on the banks of the River Alde north-east of Ipswich – Aldeburgh beach and Shingle Street, a small coastal hamlet at the mouth of Orford Ness.

Other Suffolk filming locations included Iken, Butley and Rendlesham Forest.

Filming took place in October 2019, and according to Screen Suffolk’s Jim Horsfield, the production was in Suffolk “for about a week or 10 days.”

Where was Sutton Hoo filmed?

The ‘dig’ of the film’s title actually took place in Shackleford, a village roughly 30 miles southwest of London in Surrey; the real Sutton Hoo – now a National Trust site – unfortunately does not feature.

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It is hoped interest spurred by the movie’s release will mean see the real Sutton Hoo “inundated with visitor numbers going through the roof” once Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased.

The estate walks at Sutton Hoo remain open for local walks and much-needed access to nature.

When can I watch it?

The Dig is available to stream on Netflix now.

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