Selecting the picture perfect movie set is just as important as casting the right actors and actresses to tell the story.
From the whimsical landscapes of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, and the gothic beauty of Gotham City in Batman, to the pastel avenues of suburbia in Edward Scissorhands, these movie sets, and many more, are not just spaces where the action occurs. They contribute to the action.
With Bong Joon-Ho’s movie Parasite sweeping the Oscars 2020, the attention paid to film sets has never been more prevalent. In particular, the house, where the award-winning Korean film unfolds, is so intricately constructed that it is every viewer’s second-best takeaway from the movie — naturally, the characters and plot twists take first place.
So, as Parasite enters the cinematic hall of fame for set design, we offer a retrospective at other recognisable homes that make the movie it features in more memorable. Most of the houses, which have since shed their film fame, have become private properties, too.
When we first see the Park’s lavish estate in the film, the housekeeper introduces the modernist building as one designed by star architect Namgoong. Namgoong is of course fictional, so in reality, credit for this impressive set goes to production designer Lee Ha Jun, who built the house from scratch to director Bong Jun Ho’s specifications. There were numerous aspects to factor in the design, from camera angles to the manipulation of natural light to enhance the mood in certain scenes. The home was built solely for the film in an outdoor lot of a studio, so, unfortunately, it is not a liveable space, but this fact makes the detail of the set all the more impressive.
A Star is Born (2018)
The rockstar character, famously played by Bradley Cooper, Jackson Maine in A Star Is Born has a beautiful home in which action with Ally, played by Lady Gaga, takes place. The house was revealed to be a real home, housed in the Monte Nido neighbourhood of Calabasas. Designed by Douglas Rucker, this estate in the outskirts was recently sold for US$2 million (approximately HK$15.5 million).
Django Unchained (2013)
Quentin Tarantino’s films may court controversy, but there’s one thing that garners unanimous approval when it comes to his body of work: excellent set designs. Django Unchained is a prime example thanks to Don Johnson’s character Big Daddy’s house, revealed to be a historic sugarcane plantation known as the Evergreen Plantation in Louisiana that dates back to 1790. The facade of the house was designed in the Greek Revival style, with the sprawling staircases from the verandah curving out to the lawn as the most memorable element. Parts of the film were shot here, along with some of the 36 other buildings on-site.
Regardless of your opinion on teen cult movie Twilight, what is not terrible about Stephanie Meyer’s ode to sparkling vampires is the house where the vampire characters, the Cullens, call home. The leading vampires flaunt excellent taste in architecture, though all real-life nods ought to go to Skylab Architecture. Known as Hoke Residence, the property is located on the border between Portland and Oregon’s forest park, designed to show the interplay between the elements and interior drama — an adult treehouse, if you will.
The Lake House (2006)
As much as we all love Keanu Reeves, the American romantic drama The Lake House is forgettable. It is in actual fact, a remake of Il Mare, the Korean original, which is far better in our books. What we do remember from the Hollywood copy though, is the lake house of its namesake. A glass house reinforced by beams that suffused the building with serene light in the day. Architectural styles referenced include the Regency period from the 1800s in England. The house was built entirely for this film in ten weeks, but later torn down and replaced with a fishing dock as it did not fit certain building codes.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Famed American architect and pioneer of the Googie style, John Lautner, is the man behind this famous house from the classic Bond film. The futuristic villa is called the Elrod House, and is the site for billionaire Willard Whyte’s holiday home in the film. Designed in 1969, the space spans a staggering 9,000 sq. ft. and has five bedrooms. It has changed hands since its cinematic debut, and was last sold in 2016 for US$7.7 million (HK$59.6 million) — slashed by almost half from a previous US$13.89 million (HK$107.6 million) price tag in 2009.
The Godfather (1972)
There are many impressive houses in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, but Jack Woltz’s mansion is the cream of the crop. This palatial abode spans 50,000 sq. ft., with 18 bedrooms and 29 bathrooms, and has a whole laundry list of famous comings-and-goings outside of Coppola’s masterpiece. Built in 1927 by Gordon Kauffmann, who would later go on to design the Hoover Dam, the Beverly Hills home was famously owned by publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst. The property later became the honeymoon destination for John F. and Jackie Kennedy, and is now looking for a buyer. A cool US$125 million (HK$969 million) is all it takes.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a teenage comedy classic that will go down in history for two things: the story, obviously, but also the Ben Rose House, the family home to his sidekick Cameron Frye. The glass-walled estate is designed by A. James Speyer, protégé of Mies van de Rohe. The house was briefly slated to be demolished until it was bought for US$1.06 million (HK$8.2 million) in 2016, and then renovated, complete with a new garage that can house not one, but two Ferraris.
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.