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City of Lancaster
Seven filming location: John Doe's place: The Alexandria Hotel, 218 West Fifth Street, downtown Los Angeles
But it nearly did have. There was a struggle with the studio to keep screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker’s dark vision. It took Brad Pitt’s threat to walk away from the project to keep the nasty secret of the box.
The dismal, rainswept city where detectives Somerset and Mills (Freeman and Pitt) track down a serial killer, left deliberately vague in the movie, is neither New York nor Philadelphia, as has been claimed.
The police HQ is the third floor of the Pacific Electric Building, 610 South Main Street at Sixth Street, a frequent filming site, seen in John Woo’s Face/Off and in Forrest Gump.
Seven filming location: Se7en: Somerset researches in the library: 650 South Spring Street, downtown Los Angeles
The gloomy library in which ever-diligent Somerset bones up on the Seven Deadly Sins is the old disused Bank of America building at 650 South Spring Street. Another well-used location, seen in films as diverse as John Schlesinger’s Marathon Man, Ghost, manic Jim Carrey comedy The Mask, Prizzi’s Honor, St Elmo’s Fire and Spider-Man 2, and it’s also the law firm office where Lily Tomlin jumps into the body of Steve Martin in All Of Me. You might also recognise it as the exterior of ‘Belle en Blanc’, the impossibly posh bridal store from Bridesmaids.
A way to the west, in midtown, is the ‘safe house’ in which the widow of the ‘Greed’ victim is ensconced, which was one of the bungalows of the old Ambassador Hotel, 3400 Wilshire Boulevard at Catalina Street. The hotel, seen in films from the 1954 A Star Is Born to The Graduate and S.W.A.T., used in latter years only as a movie set, was disgracefully demolished in early 2006.
Back in the heart of downtown, John Doe’s place, where the killer narrowly escapes, is only a few blocks away, the Alexandria Hotel, 218 West Fifth Street at the southwest corner of South Spring Street. The Alexandria was once one of the great luxury hotels of Los Angeles, with the likes of Enrico Caruso, Sarah Bernhardt, Douglas Fairbanks, WC Fields and Rudolph Valentino among its guests.
For years it was a welfare hotel, but has recently been given a major makeover. The subsequent rainswept chase was filmed on West Fifth Street. The same stretch of street was the site of the ‘New York’ booth in which Colin Farrell was trapped in Joel Schumacher's Phone Booth, while Farrell drives Samuel L Jackson past the same site in S.W.A.T..
The day I went to photograph the Alexandria, I woke up to find the dependably blue Los Angeles sky a dark, leaden grey. By the time I arrived downtown, the heavens opened and rain gushed down. Now, that was creepy. It made for a great picture, though.
Incidentally, the ‘JR Electronic’ storefront in the picture used to be Torchy’s Bar, a frequently-used film location – it was the 'San Francisco' redneck bar where Eddie Murphy pulls rank in 48 Hours and featured in Walter Hill’s The Driver.
Seven filming location: Se7en: Tracy reveals she's pregnant: Quality Coffee Shop, West Seventh Street, downtown Los Angeles
Tracy Mills (Gwyneth Paltrow) reveals she’s pregnant to Somerset in the Quality Coffee Shop, 1238 West Seventh Street, downtown Los Angeles, which you might remember from the 2000 remake of Gone In 60 Seconds, Training Day, Ghost World and Mr & Mrs Smith.
Seven filming location: The ‘Sloth’ victim wastes away: Pan-Am Building, Third Street, downtown Los Angeles
The apartment of the comatose ‘Sloth’ victim is in the Pan-Am Building, Third Street at South Broadway, seen also in Blade Runner and just across from that movie’s most famous location, the Bradbury Building. More recently, the Pan-Am became the apartment of John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) in supernatural thriller Constantine. It’shad a bit of a spruce up and the striking ‘Giant’ lettering has now gone.
Seven filming location: "What's in the box?": powerlines on I Street, Lancaster, California
The ending is out in the desert way north of Los Angeles. The area of high-tension lines can be found on West Avenue I, just east of 110th Street, west of Lancaster. This is near-featureless desert – the ‘street’ numbers are purely imaginary, the land having been mapped out in a grid ready for the day developers overwhelm the desert with high-rise blocks.