I initially had a few reservations about LA. Yesterday we spent a very boring and long time in traffic and the sky was pretty overcast. However, today I (roughly) got over the jet-lag and threw those ideas out of the window. No matter what your view, the centre of Hollywood is deliriously exciting, with lots of people in silly movie costumes, beautifully constructed movie palaces, street artists and, of course, the iconic Walk of Fame. You do see the odd homeless person (with optional offensive signage) or a political protestor, but you just ignore those people. My journey to discover the American film industry today began not on the Boulevard itself but in one of the most famous places around, and the sole working studio that still remains in Hollywood itself, as oppose to Burbank: Paramount.
Our guide showed us around to several soundstages, which has in Paramount’s history housed the likes of Orson Welles with Citizen Kane to the entire Glee cast. These were enormous and had massive insulated walls. The other major attraction that we drove to in our golf cart was an impressive series of building façades that gave the illusion of New York City. Here is the home of the young Chris Rock in Everybody Hates Chris:
Our tour guide reliably informed us that when this lot was rented to a production company that company could do whatever they wanted as long as they promised to restore it when finished This includes blowing up the pavement as J.J. Abrams did in Cloverfield. We also saw sets from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Godfather, the TV show Community and Vanilla Sky.
We also gained access to Paramount’s massive screening room and I sat in the chair where Michael Bay and J.J. Abrams had edited some of their movies. I seriously nearly fell over in the chair when I first sat down but I eventually stabled myself to give a directorial pose:
It was a really authentic tour and I very much enjoyed it. Sadly I didn’t see any celebrities but I thought that the surprise entrance of Mila Kunis yesterday made up for it.
I then went to the Hollywood Museum near Hollywood Boulevard. It’s a three-odd-storey building which houses a collection of movie props and memorabilia. It was a quaint little place and while it wasn’t exhaustive in its props there was plenty of interesting things to see; a whole floor was dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, and there was a fabulous exhibition piece on Max Factor, the Polish innovator who invented many modern make-up items (such as mascara) and tried them out on early film stars. One of my favourite exhibits was the Hannibal Lecter cell from Silence of the Lambs; a cold thrill of terror shot through me as I peered in to the home of a cold-hearted killer.
I rounded off the day with a wonderful walking tour on Hollywood Boulevard. Our guide told us the history behind all of the most famous buildings and cinemas in the area whilst opening our eyes to some of the famous scandals that had taken place! It was also great to hear the story of the Hollywood stars and why many people refused to be given one – either because you have to pay $30,000, or because several fictional characters exist as stars including Mickey Mouse (thus the credibility is ruined). But my favourite place to go was Grauman’s Egyptian Theater – recently restored with the help of the American Cinematheque, and with a brilliant interior:
I then got back to my apartment and gratefully collapsed. I really wanted to go to a double bill at the Egyptian Theater but nobody wanted to go with me! So I vowed to return there at some point and pick up many of the amazing postcards that I had spotted in the foyer.
Tomorrow I’m off to Universal Studios. The Florida version is one of my favourite places in the world. It remains to be seen if the Hollywood version will match up. See you then.