The US: as seen on screen


By Ellen E Jones and Harriet Cooper

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October 2017

From rugged stretches of Californian coastline and cascading waterfalls in Washington State to jazz cafés in LA and famous New York stores, Ellen E Jones and Harriet Cooper check out the iconic US film and TV locations that every fan of the big and small screen should visit.

Big Little Lies, Monterey County

Comedy-drama TV series Big Little Lies - starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon - is about three mothers of first-graders whose seemingly perfect lives slowly unravel. The story may turn dark, but expect plenty of shots of sunny Monterey County, just south of San Francisco. Take a road trip along the panoramic Highway 1 to the coastal cities of Pacific Grove and Monterey, the setting of many key scenes. Here, stars of the show include Lovers Point Park and Beach (a magnet for surfers), Fisherman’s Wharf with its smattering of seafood restaurants, and the famous Monterey Bay aquarium - a must-do if you visit the area.

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s, New York

Not much can eclipse Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in one of the most iconic films ever made, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But New York gives it a damn good try. As the romance between Golightly and aspiring writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard) unfolds, we’re treated to a whirlwind tour of NYC from Holly’s apartment on East 71st Street to the New York Public Library and Central Park, in particular Conservatory Water. But if you only do one thing, head to Tiffany’s flagship store on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street to recreate the most famous scene in the movie for yourself.

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  • Tiffany & Co on Fifth Avenue definitely has its place in the movie hall of fame © Press Image.

    All that glitters

    A taxi pulls up outside Tiffany & Co on Fifth Avenue and a Givenchy-clad Holly Golightly emerges, clutching a coffee and pastry… and so begins Breakfast at Tiffany’s, one of the most iconic films of all time. The jewellery store had never before been used as a location before and during filming, 40 guards and sales staff were assembled to protect the gems inside.

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  • The opening sequence of La La Land with downtown Los Angeles in the background © Press Image.

    One for the road

    The film’s opening spectacle - a six-minute dance number to the track ‘Another Day of Sun’ - takes place amid a traffic jam on LA’s freeway overpass. The scene was actually filmed over two days and although it’s designed to look like a one shot, is actually three shots stitched together.

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  • A baby-faced Macaulay Culkin shines in the seminal 1990 American Christmas comedy Home Alone © Press Image.

    Close to home

    The McAllister family pad was actually a real house in Winnetka, Illinois - close to Lake Michigan. The owners were put up in a studio apartment for the duration of filming, but they chose to spend as much time as possible on set and they became good friends with the cast and crew.

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La La Land, Los Angeles

Magical musical La La Land - which tells the tale of struggling actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) - is as much about Los Angeles as it is about the film’s protagonists. Shot in over 40 LA locations, the movie is a “love letter to the city” according to its producer. Follow in Mia and Sebastian’s choreographed footsteps to Griffith Park, the setting of song-and-dance number A Lovely Night; the Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach - it’s here that Sebastian introduces Mia to “pure jazz”; and book a tour of the Warner Bros. Studio, where Mia works in a coffee shop, albeit a fictional one.

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Twin Peaks: The Return, Washington State

Mark Frost and David Lynch’s cult 90s TV show is back on screen in the revival series Twin Peaks: The Return. And it’s not just cast members who have returned (including Kyle MacLachlan who plays Special Agent Dale Cooper); the original locations in Washington State make a reappearance, too. Get your “damn fine cup of coffee” (and a slice of cherry pie) at Twede’s Cafe in North Bend, the location for the Double R Diner. And don’t leave the area until you’ve taken in the spectacular 270-ft Snoqualmie Falls and posed for pictures by the imposing Great Northern Hotel (actually the Salish Lodge & Spa).

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  • The rugged Pacific coast beaches near Carmel and Big Sur star in Big Little Lies © Press.

    Coast along

    Monterey County has a diverse coastline that includes the remote Big Sur region and the urban areas of Monterey Bay. It’s best explored by car via the Pacific Coast highway, one of the most scenic drives in the world (we recommend you hire a convertible).

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Home Alone, Chicago

The McAllister family may head to Paris - accidentally leaving eight-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) home alone in Illinois - but the entire production was filmed in or around Chicago; even the scenes set in Paris Orly airport were shot at the city’s O’Hare International Airport. Much of the movie takes place in the McAllister home, a 1920s mansion in Winnetka on Chicago's North Shore, in which Kevin takes on a pair of bumbling burglars. Nearby, eagle-eyed viewers will recognise the pharmacy (now a bakery) opposite Hubbards Woods Park, where Kevin steals a toothbrush, and Trinity United Methodist Church in Wilmette, where our pint-size hero seeks refuge.

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