Hollywood is good at recycling things. After all, you build a giant house or an elaborate prop and you wouldn’t just use it once and toss it, right? This is why they have backlots at studios; they can hoard all their favorite stuff for later use (like the iconic building in the image above) or, failing that, at least use it for the studio tours. Same kind of goes for on-location sets – some places are just too dynamic to use only once, especially when the owner is more than willing to pimp out their place for cash.
This circle of life is great when you are working with a generic looking high school or cookie-cutter set but there are the occasional moments when they use a location just a little too iconic for its own good – and like a type-cast actor, you can’t help but to see the location as anything besides what made it famous in the first place.
6. Batman Takes On The Joker In The Same Place Ripley Took On Aliens
When the crew of Aliens found the Action Lane Power Station in London they thought it was the perfect place to portray the dark corridors of LV-426, that is once they cleaned all the damned asbestos out of the place. The clean up was well worth it, because not only did it serve as a wonderful place for the suspense of the first hive scene of the film, but also later went on to be the site of Batman and The Joker’s first confrontation at Axis Chemicals in Tim Burton’s Batman, which of course results in the villain’s disfigurement. Watching the movies back-to-back, it’s uncanny.
The two biggest giveaways have to be the giant tank redressed in Batman to be ‘Toxic Gas’ (just what the hell is that factory producing anyway?) and of course those bright orange railings that stand out so much.
Kind of makes you want to watch Batman fight an Alien doesn’t it?
Totally unrelated but really, really awesome.
5. Professor X’s School For Gifted Youngsters Is Also Billy Madison’s House
Throughout the X-Men films, multiple mansions around the world have stood in for Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters – even in the first film they used two different places for the exterior shots alone, picking and choosing places that they saw fit. Because of this it’s hard for anyone to nail down one place and say, “That’s the school from X-Men!” Instead I went ahead and chose the first location shown in the first film when establishing the school, and that location is Parkwood Estate in Ontario Canada.
What makes this establishing shot of these gifted students so fun to look at is because this same location was used years earlier during the establishing shots of another film… coincidentally also about a very gifted student.
What respectable drunken man-child doesn’t want to be Billy Madison? This is of course during the beginning credits of the film where Billy chases his ‘friend’ around the mansion on a golf cart. It’s kind of weird to watch X-Men knowing that years before it, at that very same spot, this was happening:
To make matters worse, Parkwood has also appeared in gems like Undercover Brother and Bulletproof Monk. However I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I own both of those films.
4. Tyler Durden Blows Up Die Hard’s Nakatomi Plaza In Fight Club
The Fox Plaza in Century City, Los Angeles just can’t get a break; everyone seems to want to destroy it – It was the lobby of the building in the elevator scene in Speed, its surrounding areas were rioted upon in Airheads – and of course it was Nakatomi Plaza in the action classic Die Hard where it exploded not once, but TWICE.
It’s a little lazy when you think about it – after all Fox Plaza is the headquarters for 20th Century Fox, which of course released Die Hard. So it almost feels like the executives wanted to make a film, but didn’t want to get out of their chairs to do it.
But through all of these fictional attacks the building still remained standing… that is until Mr. Durden got his hands on it.
Did you catch it? It’s rather quick. That’s the Fox Plaza on the far left, one of the first buildings to go down in the ending sequence to Fight Club. It’s amongst several other notable Century City and Los Angeles buildings, such as the St. Regis Hotel and Century Plaza Twin Towers, that were composited into the false skyline for this now iconic… and rather romantic demolition.
3. The Mask Makes A Mess Of The Firehouse From Ghostbusters
It’s probably become clear at this point that rarely is one location used to portray a setting in a film – and believe it or not this was also the case with the Ghostbusters firehouse headquarters in New York City, which is actually two buildings that look almost exactly the same but happen to be about 2500 miles apart.
One is the Hook & Ladder Company #8 building in Manhattan, NY, and the other is Fire Station 23 in Los Angeles, CA. That’s right, they decided to cover both coasts. The LA one was used for interior and some close up exterior shots and the NY one was used for the main exteriors. Together they represent the single coolest fictional workplace ever – featuring both firefighter poles and ghost jails, who could ask for anything more?
One would think that there is just no way to walk by these buildings and not recognize them as anything besides Ghostbusters HQ – however when redressed for the film The Mask, LA’s Fire Station 23 actually made a pretty good Auto Shop.
It’s really only when Jim Carrey’s character steps inside do we start to recognize it fully – mainly because of those doors:
Of course once Carrey becomes the vengeful Mask of the film, the poor firehouse takes a turn for the worse…
2. Bruce Almighty Takes A Stroll By The Courthouse From Back To The Future
So while we’re on the subject of iconic childhood movie locations in less-good Jim Carrey comedies, anyone notice this?
That would be the pivotal clock tower from the Back To The Future series being rioted upon in the film Bruce Almighty, which appears only for a flash in the film. In fact, besides this shot it appears once more as a blur in the background.
The reason of course is presumably because the producers spent all their cash on talent, Bruce Almighty was almost completely shot on the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot, which anyone can see on the theme park tram tour. They have a whole freaking city to themselves spanning several eras and architectural styles, the most recognizable of which has to be Hill Valley, or Courthouse Square, from Back To The Future.
Since its appearance, Courtyard Square fell victim to the June 2008 backlot fire that completely leveled the King Kong attraction. Luckily for our childhood, while singed, the courthouse itself remained standing in the aftermath – which is actually the second time it was spared from a fire, for it also survived a similar blaze in 1997.
1. George McFly’s Hangout Is The Same Diner From The Sting
Of course there was another Back To The Future landmark that did burn down in the fire, and that was Lou’s Café in the first film. This is particularly distressing considering that years before they shot the first of this time traveling trilogy, a much more influential film had also been shot in the very same place, The Sting.
If you haven’t seen the film I highly suggest you check it out – probably the single best charming con-artist movie you’ll ever see. In fact watching Paul Newman and Robert Redford you can’t help but to realize where actors like Brad Pitt and George Clooney took lessons from – these guys are smooth.
One of the more significant locations concerning the big con of the film takes place in a diner, this diner:
Look’s familiar doesn’t it? That’s because years later it became this diner:
And then even later it became this one:
Imagine so much movie history taking place in one little strip of set. And we’ll never be able to see it again, because sadly after the second Back To The Future film was shot this diner burnt down in yet another Universal Studios Backlot fire. In fact, the Universal Studios backlot has caught on fire eight goddamn times, so someone might want to look into that before the Bates Motel takes a hit.
What’s your favorite location cameo in movies?