Inside the Absolutely Impossible, Iconic ‘Spice World’ Bus, 25 Years Later

Entertainment

Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want: the bus from Spice World. The double-decker that transported the Spice Girls through London in 1997 had its own ecosystem. It was a world away from the world, a gaudy enclave personalized for each of the five chicas (to the front and otherwise, slamming as instructed in “Spice Up Your Life”) whose collective girl power would make them the biggest-selling female group in history. 

Nothing about the bus made sense. It was bigger on the inside than it was on the outside, like the time machine from Doctor Who. It kind of felt like its own time machine, in fact—one with toilets that constantly needed unclogging. Somehow there was ample room for Baby Spice’s swing, Posh’s catwalk, Sporty’s workout equipment, Scary’s functioning aquarium, and Ginger’s ’60s decor. Despite the bus having a hodgepodge of colors, its abundant silver seemed space age-y, as if the engine might rocket them to another planet at any moment. (The Spice Girls did meet a few aliens in the movie, after all.) At the end of the film, it was destroyed by a bomb. In real life? It’s as alive and well as a bus can be.

Twenty-five years after Spice World opened in theaters, the bus has a permanent residence on the Isle of Wight, a popular travel destination in the English Channel. A superfan named Suzanne Godley renovated the interior in 2019 and sometimes lists the bus on Airbnb for overnight rentals. The quirks have been sanitized, swapping whimsy for polish and making it a little more practical for the non-pop-star set, but the bus’s façade still bears the Union Jack insignia that the movie’s production designer, Grenville Horner, came up with after seeing Geri Halliwell, a.k.a. Ginger Spice, wear a striking British-flag minidress at the Brit Awards in 1997. 

When I spoke to Horner via Zoom last week, he held up his copy of the original script, which featured Spice World’s working title, Five. He still owns his original sketches and other memorabilia from the film, and he had earmarked a page where screenwriter Kim Fuller described the bus in extraordinary detail.

Courtesy Grenville Horner.

“There are no seats,” Horner read aloud. “Instead, the whole area is luxuriantly carpeted and sectioned off into areas for each girl, each of these being designed according to their Spice character. Note: There should be five of everything. Five towels, five bathrobes, five toothbrushes, five clothes racks. Emma: fluffy chair, pink wall, lots of teddies and My Little Ponies. Mel B: mystical, Gothic, leopard-skin throws and oriental wall hangings. Geri: ’60s pastiche, posters of Charlie’s Angels. Mel C: exercise bike, posters of Liverpool Football Club. Victoria: Vogue-ish, sleek, rail of expensive clothes. There is also a kitchen area with drinks and food vending machines.”

Horner had already worked with Spice World director Bob Spiers on multiple British comedy series, including French and Saunders and A Bit of Fry and Laurie. With three daughters of his own, he loved the Spice Girls’ 1996 debut album. But what really spoke to him was the movie’s homage to the Beatles’ similarly nonsensical pseudo-documentary A Hard Day’s Night. The Liverpool lads’ madcap adventures felt like a fantasy, which meant everything in Spice World could too. Scenes set inside the bus were even shot at Twickenham Studios, the same place where portions of A Hard Day’s Night and its follow-up, Help!, set up shop in the mid-’60s.

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