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Thursday July 18th 2024

Los Angeles for Film Fans: Westside & Malibu 1

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Royce Hall, University of California, Los Angeles
Royce Hall, University of California, Los Angeles | Photograph: Wikimedia / Alton

This tour takes in in everything from the Westside proper, and along the coast to Malibu and the northwest.

The centre of the Westside neighbourhood is the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (not to be confused with its rival, the University of Southern California, which you’ll find Downtown).

With four Romanesque Revival buildings – the Powell Library, Royce Hall, the Humanities Building, and Haines Hall – dating from 1929, set in 400 acres, it’s hardly a surprise to find that UCLA shares duties with USC to represent institutions of higher learning on screen – in fact, John Singleton’s 1995 Higher Learning was filmed here.

Legally Blonde, Old School, The Nutty Professor, Erin Brockovich, The Sure Thing, Final Analysis and American Pie 2 all include scenes filmed on campus. Exterior shots of the fictitious ‘UC Sunnydale’ in TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer were also filmed at UCLA.

Of all the university’s buildings, the most familiar is Royce Hall, 405 Hilgard Avenue, its design inspired by the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio in Milan.

With a CGI background added , the Hall’s cloisters are passed off as ‘Harvard University’, where Professor of Symbology Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is approached by a Papal representative in the jaw-droppingly daft Angels And Demons.

The Hall stands near the top of the wide and expansive Janss Steps, the original entrance to the university, and another location familiar from The Nutty Professor and Old School. Legend has it that Harold Janss, one of the two brothers who originally owned the land on which the campus is built, is buried under the sixth step. Don’t tread on it. You’ve been warned.

Built originally to serve the university’s student population, Westwood Village has developed into an über-smart shopping area.

Janss Building, Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles
Janss Building, Westwood Boulevard

The white Mediterranean-Moorish, domed Janss Building, 1099 Westwood Boulevard, standing guard at the junction of Westwood Boulevard and Broxton Avenue, is a Westwood landmark dating from 1929. For many years it was Italian-Chinese fusion restaurant Eurochow, which became Japanese restaurant Yamato, but is currently vacant.

You can’t mistake the building in Paul Schrader’s swooningly stylish 1980 American Gigolo, most of which is set around Westwood Village. The layout’s pretty much the same as it was in the Eighties, though many of the businesses have obviously changed hands in the intervening years.

Regency Bruin Theatre, Broxton Avenue
Regency Bruin Theatre, Broxton Avenue

It's on the main drag, Westwood Plaza, that bored society wife Michelle Stratton (Lauren Hutton) trails high-class escort Julian Kaye (Richard Gere) until 'accidentally' bumping into him in the long-gone branch of Tower Records, which stood at 1028 Westwood Boulevard.

And it’s in front of the Regency Bruin Theatre, 948 Broxton Avenue, that exasperated Kaye helpfully writes his phone number on the forehead of the guy who’s been clumsily tailing him. Recently, it's the cinema where Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) watches herself in The Wrecking Crew in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Back in 1957, the Bruin was the also site of a bit of a ruckus with Hal (James MacArthur) in The Young Stranger, John Frankenheimer's drama of teen angst.

Regency Village Theatre, Broxton Avenue, Westside, Los Angeles
Regency Village Theatre, Broxton Avenue – the premiere of Bobby Bowfinger's sci-fi classic Chubby Rain

Immediately across Broxton Avenue from the Bruin stands the white Spanish-Moderne tower of the beautiful 1931 deco Regency Village Theatre, 961 Broxton Avenue. Regularly hosting Hollywood premieres, the cinema is graced by the premiere of the unforgettable sci-fi epic Chubby Rain in Bowfinger.

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