(Photo credit: CC0 1.0 / PublicDomainPictures.net)
Unfinished packets of chips, empty cans and DVDs strewn on the coffee table, a dim room lit only by the strong glare of the television and a figure slouched on the sofa with dark-circled eyes glued to the moving images on the screen with one hand mechanically stuffing popcorn into a mouth that opens like clockwork.
This is a typical, and mostly unsightly, scene that movie-buffs are well-acquainted with — a sleep-deprived movie marathon that’s gone on too long.
But instead of being confined to the two-dimensional images on the screen and an unhealthy lifestyle, why not satisfy your Hollywood addiction on a holiday? Pay a visit to the house that a loved character lived in, walk the stretch of street where that heart-stopping final battle took place, behold the building that was supposedly bombed into oblivion or take in the panoramic view from a beach or hilltop in an alternative fantasy world.
While at these filming locations, characters come to life and fiction become real. And for those who know where to look, some places hold a great number of filming locations of some of the most famous movies.
A mecca for movie-buffs, London probably has one of the highest concentrations of filming locations in the world. Within central London itself, there are already more than 200 filming sites. The following locations are all within a 20-minute drive of one another.
In the heart of London is the arts and cultural hub Somerset House, which is well-known for the open-air ice-skating rink in its courtyard during winter. An adaptable and popular filming location, Somerset House doubled up in X-Men: First Class as the Swiss bank that Erik Lensherr tracked Sebastian Shaw to.
Just a few minutes’ drive to the east and south of Somerset House are the Temple Church and the Westminster Abbey respectively, both of which were featured in The Da Vinci Code. In the movie, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu searched the effigy tombs in the temple for the tomb of a knight. In real life, the temple is indeed the London Headquarters of the Knights Templar and is famous for its round shape and its effigies. Though only the exterior of the Westminster Abbey was filmed in the movie as the place Langdon went in search for the tomb of Sir Isaac Newton, this church is rich in history and worth a visit. Since 1066, the coronation of every English monarch has taken place in this church.
There are also famous filming locations from the Harry Potter series in Central London. Believers of the wizarding world can try entering Diagon Alley via the Leaky Cauldron, which entrance is at 42 Bull’s Head Passage at LeadenHall Market, below the famous Llyod’s Building. Or, they can at least pose for a photo at the King’s Cross Station where there is a wall with a “Platform 9 ¾” sign and a trolley half-disappearing through it. Other filming sites including the Millennium Bridge over the Thames River, which the Death Eaters destroyed in the sixth movie, the west side of Claremont Place in Islington that was the home of Sirius Black and the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, and the Reptile House in the ZSL London Zoo at Regent’s Park, where Harry Potter spoke to and released the boa constrictor.
Where is a better place to look for filming locations than at Los Angeles, home to Hollywood? Many well-known films such as Spiderman, the Back to the Future series and Fight Club were shot mainly in Los Angeles.
In downtown Los Angeles, the Promenade Towers on South Figueroa was where the unnamed narrator of Fight Club, acted by Ed Norton, stayed originally before it was blown up in an explosion and the Hotel Bristol on West 8th Street was where Marla Singer lodged at. A 10-minute drive away is the University of Southern California in the Exposition Park that was the University of Alabama, which Forrest Gump graduated from.
Just a block south is the Natural History Museum of the Los Angeles County, where Peter Parker alias Spiderman, was bitten by the spider that gave him his powers. Spiderman was set in New York but filmed in Los Angeles. Further to the West is Dorsey High School, which contributed the interior shots of Midtown High where Spiderman and other Marvel comic characters schooled at. Further north, the interior of Norman Orsborn’s mansion was filmed at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills.
Sitting on a slope of Mount Hollywood is the Griffith Observatory, where The Terminator materialised on. From that high vantage point, one has a fantastic view of the Los Angeles basin below, including downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean.
The house of Doctor Emmett Brown from Back to the Future was filmed in Pasadena, in two Japanese-inspired historical houses. The Gamble House at 4 Westmoreland Place was the home of the Doctor and the book store next to it was his workshop, where the time-travelling DeLorean was stored. Originally built for David and Mary Gamble, who were second-generation members of the Proctor and Gamble family, the house now belongs to the City of Pasenda and is a National Historic Landmark because of its American Arts and Craft style architecture. The front door and the interior of the house were however, filmed in the Blacker House at Hillcrest Avenue.
Made up entirely of islands with a wide variety of landscapes — valleys, beaches, waterfalls, plains, forests and ranches — Hawaii is a picture perfect place. It has appeared in many movies including Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, Pirates of the Caribbean and Rise of the Planet of The Apes.
Most of Jurassic Park was filmed on the island of Kauai. The first view of the coast of Isla Nublar, where Jurassic Park was set, is a shot of the green slopes of the Na Pali Coast State Park, which was formed to protect the Kalalau Valley. A boat or a helicopter tour will give you the best view of the coast. The Limahuli Garden and Allerton Garden are both sites of the National Tropical Botanical Garden formed to preserve tropical plants and are open for tours. The Limahuli Garden is featured in the prologue when a staff falls prey to a dinosaur and the Allerton Garden is where Allan Grant finds dinosaur eggs much later in the show. One of the key sites to visit is the base of Mount Wai’ale’ale, where the entry gates to Jurassic Park were erected and also where a water-filled basin, the Blue Hole is, which was where the T-rex paddock was constructed. But the hike to these sites is extremely difficult and a guided tour is recommended.
Two famous sites on Kauai featured in Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides are the Honopu Arch on the Honopu Beach, which is accessible only by a boat tour. Jack Sparrow came across the arch when he was sent off alone to investigate the island. The other site is the Waikapala’e Wet Cave, one of the two wet caves in the area. It is famed for its Blue Room, a grotto accessible by swimming that sometimes glow blue as the sunlight reflects off the blue waters. In the film, the cave led to the Fountain of Youth.
Another popular island for filming is Oahu, the most developed of the Hawaii Islands. Here, there is the Kualoa Ranch, where Allen Grant and the kids meet a stampede of Gallimimus while fleeing from the T-rex in Jurassic Park. The fallen branch where they took cover is possibly still there and presents a good photo opportunity.
Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii, is also located in Oahu. A must-visit is Pearl Harbor, where part of its namesake movie was filmed. Today, there are memorial sites and museums there for visitors. At Honolulu is also the Halona Cove, where a boat of crew members was left as bait for mermaids in Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides.