Actors aren’t the only characters to make an impact onscreen. In destination films, there’s the leading man, the leading woman — and the hotel.
The grand, looming bunker where Jack Nicholson’s family meets its horrifying fate in “The Shining” — called the Overlook Hotel in the film — in reality is the Timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark 60 miles east of Portland, Ore., that sits on the south slope of Mount Hood.
Still photographer Murray Close, who worked on the movie as his first job out of college, participated in the art department discussions and location research. The hotel wasn’t just selected “for its remote environment and extraordinary scenery,” he says. “It was also that it had a specific and separate front and back aspect.” This was essential since the front view of the lodge was used as the film’s establishing shot, while the rear view (and the hedge maze) was built at Elstree Studios in England. And thanks to Roy Walker’s production design, cavernous rooms and hallways in the Timberline Lodge were rebuilt and transformed into claustrophobic, menacing spaces on an English soundstage.
“All of the shooting with the cast and (director) Stanley (Kubrick) was done in the U.K. with sets rebuilt from the photographic reference,” Close notes, adding that the hotel didn’t feel horrifying at all. “It was a bit dreary, actually.”
The filmmakers took pains not to scare off future visitors. “(The Timberline) did object to Room 217, which existed and was in the book, and this was changed in the film to Room 237,” Close says of the eerie hotel room that terrorizes the film’s characters.
In contrast, the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, synonymous with “Pretty Woman,” has guests clamoring to rent the opulent suite where Julia Roberts and Richard Gere play house.
“We receive so many inquiries from guests wanting to stay in the ‘Pretty Woman’ suite for a proposal, honeymoon or other special occasions,” says Radha Arora, regional vp and GM of the hotel, who notes the requests come in daily. “It’s amazing that 20 years later the movie still resonates with everyone.”
Although the exterior of the hotel was used for the film, director Garry Marshall filmed most of the interior scenes on a soundstage. (The bus stop bench where Roberts’ character sits in front of the hotel in all of her hooker regalia was built for the movie.)
“Honestly, the reason we chose the hotel back in 1989 is not because we thought of that hotel first,” Marshall says. “We approached many other famous Beverly Hills hotels and they said, ‘We don’t have hookers in our hotels and we don’t want to be featured in a movie about a hooker.’ So their loss and the Beverly Wilshire’s gain!
“When I first moved to Hollywood in 1962, I couldn’t afford to stay in the Motel 6, let alone the Regent Beverly Wilshire … I would dream that some day I would take my wife Barbara to stay in one of these fancy hotels,” Marshall adds. “And in fact a few years after we made ‘Pretty Woman’ I was able to take my wife to stay in the Pretty Woman Suite at the Regent Beverly Wilshire for our wedding anniversary. She was once a poor girl from Cincinnati and I was once a poor kid from the Bronx. Suddenly, there we were sitting in the Pretty Woman Suite, sipping champagne from flutes with $10 strawberries floating inside. If that isn’t the magic of Hollywood I don’t know what is.”
Production designer Albert Brenner notes that Marshall “prefers shooting on a soundstage, versus on-location filming.” Why? “When you go in to a space, you look around and say, ‘The first thing we’ve got to do is change these drapes.’ Or, ‘The carpet has got to go, and we’ve got to do something about the thing on the wall.’ ”
“It was a rule of thumb some time ago that if you were going to be at a location for more than five days, you were better off building it,” he adds. “I find that construction or building or making a set is better because (otherwise) you have to find and dress the location, pay for the location, pay the police to guard you, pay for trucks and transportation, pay for food and the people who come to feed everybody. And then, when you’re finished, you generally have to repair the location because someone has managed to break something (or) change the color.”
While Brenner might have a preference for a tried and true soundstage, he and Marshall did revisit the Beverly Wilshire for “Valentine’s Day,” where the production shot a few scenes.
Park Hyatt Tokyo
Sofia Coppola showcased the sleek Park Hyatt Tokyo in 2003’s “Lost in Translation,” setting up the hotel as a startlingly foreign (and technologically advanced) planet with garish LED vistas. She takes on the heart of Hollywood next, setting her upcoming feature “Somewhere” in Los Angeles’ Chateau Marmont.
But of all of the hotels with commendable stage presence, the Grand Hotel that opened in 1887 on Mackinac Island in Michigan seems to have had the most profound affect on the local residents.
The 1980 time-traveling drama “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was shot here, though Richard Matheson’s novel “Bid Time Return,” on which the movie is based, is actually set at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego — itself the location used in “Some Like It Hot.”
“They scouted the Coronado and there were just too many modern things around,” says John Hulett, managing director of the Grand Hotel, who was an extra in the film and acted as a liaison between the hotel and movie production.
Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel are a time-traveling experience in their own right: cars aren’t allowed on the island and it’s only accessible by air or ferry. Producer Stephen Deutsch and his crew scouted the property in the middle of February. “We took them around on snowmobiles so that they could see the island, and one of the questions they asked was, ‘Where’s the lake?’ And we just kind of pointed down and said, ‘We’re right on it,’ ” Hulett says.
The Grand Hotel is a seasonal hotel. “We drain all of our pipes, turn the electrical and heat off, and completely shut down from the end of October through April, so they came down to a shutdown hotel,” Hulett continues. Despite that, the crew was able to envision its summer lushness and commit to filming there.
“They had to get special permission from the city council in order to bring their semis on the island that came by barge and were hidden from tourists,” Hulett says. “A lot of their lighting and electrical equipment was transferred by horse and buggy.”
The film did even more for the hotel than the hotel did for the film.
“The movie put this whole island in the middle of nowhere on an international map,” says Jo Addie, an extra in the movie and president of the fan club INSITE, the International Network of “Somewhere In Time” enthusiasts. October will be the organization’s 20th year, where more than 700 fans meet on the island and wear period dress to pay homage to the island’s beloved film.