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Sunday March 3rd 2024

Los Angeles for Film Fans: Downtown 4

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The Bradbury Building, South Broadway
The Bradbury Building, South Broadway

(500) Days of Summer ends a couple of blocks to the east at possibly my favourite building in Los Angeles, the Bradbury Building, 304 South Broadway at Third Street.

Built in 1893, the wonderfully photogenic Bradbury Building can be seen in 1949 Douglas Sirk drama Shockproof; Frank Tashlin’s Richard Harris-Doris Day comedy thriller Caprice (as ‘Paris’); Murder in the First, with Christian Slater (as ‘San Francisco’); Mike NicholsWolf (as ‘New York’), with Jack Nicholson turning into a werewolf, and, of course, (500) Days of Summer (as Los Angeles – for once – it’s the office building where Tom finally attends a job interview) and as the studio in Oscar-winner The Artist.

It’s most famous as the waterlogged home of toymaker Sebastian, where Deckard (Harrison Ford) is menaced by androids and has the final showdown with Batty (Rutger Hauer), in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

Outside, it's an unremarkable red-brick block, but the central courtyard, illuminated by skylights (through which the illuminated blimp is seen in Blade Runner), is a fantasy of wrought-iron grillwork, marble and tiles surrounding open-cage elevators. It's been lovingly restored and, though it now houses offices, the ground floor is open to the public.

Opposite the Bradbury, the Pan Am Building, South Broadway at Third Street, supplied the interior of Blade Runner’s scuzzy ‘Yukon Hotel’, and also the apartment of the skeletal ‘Sloth’ victim in David Fincher’s Se7en. It’s been spruced up a bit and the ‘Giant’ signs have gone.

Alexandria Hotel
Alexandria Hotel – John Doe's place

The unnamed, rainswept city of Se7en looks so unlike the familiar image of lawns and palm trees that many people didn’t recognise it as Los Angeles. The gloomy apartment block of John Doe (Kevin Spacey), where the killer narrowly escapes, is the Alexandria Apartments, 501 South Spring Street at the southwest corner of West Fifth Street. Once the Alexandria Hotel, one of the great luxury hotels of Los Angeles, numbering the likes of Enrico Caruso, Sarah Bernhardt, Douglas Fairbanks Sr, WC Fields and Rudolph Valentino among its guests, the Alexandria spent years as a welfare hotel, but has recently been given a major makeover as apartments. It also now houses the Down and Out Bar.

Se7en’s rainswept chase was filmed alongside the Alexandria on West Fifth Street – the same stretch of street which became ‘New York’s Theatre District’, where Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is pinned down by an unseen sniper in Joel Schumacher's Phone Booth.

South Spring Street
South Spring Street – all-purpose location

This area of Downtown stands in for ‘New York’ more often than you might know. Spring and Fifth Streets, in particular, are regularly used for inner-city car chases (Spider-Man, Daredevil, Inception...).

The old Bank of America building at 650 South Spring Street is like a great supporting actor. Dependable, recognisable, but hard to put a name to.

It crops up in The Prestige – twice (it’s not only the courtroom, but the ‘London’ pub). Its interior can be seen in Se7en as the gloomy library in which ever-diligent Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) bones up on the Seven Deadly Sins, as ‘Edge City Bank’, where Jim Carrey works in The Mask; as the ‘Manhattan’ bank in which Szell (Laurence Olivier) is entranced by the stash of diamonds in John Schlesinger's Marathon Man; and as the ‘New York’ bank robbed by Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) in Spider-Man 2 among many others.

More recently it provided the exterior of ‘Belle en Blanc’, the swanky bridal store in Bridesmaids, and it’s on Spring Street that the stricken Lillian (Maya Rudolph) embarrasses herself in the posh designer wedding dress.

Main Street at Fourth
Main Street at Fourth – a regular 'New York' stand-in

The most popular stand-in for the Big Apple, though, is the stretch of Main Street at Fourth Street. It’s a pretty run-down area at present. Look out for the tell-tale Barclay Hotel sign as ‘New York’ is threatened by asteroid fragments in Armageddon, or a giant green thingysaurus in the 1998 version of Godzilla.

This block does actually appear as LA in (500) Days of Summer – Tom lived in the Canadian Building, 432 South Main Street at Winston Street, and for Carl Franklin’s shockingly underrated 1995 Devil In A Blue Dress, with Denzel Washington, this stretch of Main Street was taken spectacularly back to the Forties.

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