Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood has quickly become one of my all time favorite movies. Quinten Tanatino’s love letter to late 1960s LA is full of wonderful details and used many beloved SoCal institutions, including a number that are accessible to the film buff!
While many of the locations in the film, they “play themselves” there are a handful of places that were dressed up to be one thing or another. This has been a post months in the making, and in a way, also kind of years in the making, as I utilize some older photos from visits to these locations prior to and around the film’s release. Additionally, due to COVID, I have not visited or in some cases revisited the interiors of some locations.
In the beginning of the film we are introduced to Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stuntman/right hand man Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). The pair arrive at Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood’s oldest restaurant, for Rick to have a lunch meeting with Marvin Schwarz (Al Pocino). Rick and Cliff arrive by driving into the back parking lot and entering through the backdoor, eventually landing at the bar. Later Schwarz arrives, entering through the front, and meets Rick and Cliff at the bar, later Rick and Marvin are seated at a table.
A friend of mine surprised me with Musso & Frank reservations awhile back, and we were lucky enough to be seated in a booth visible just past Pacino once he and DiCaprio at seated, with a lovely view of the area where they sat for the film.
After Rick and Marvin’s luncheon, Rick and Cliff have a conversation in the parking lot as they await Rick’s car, standing under the massive Musso and Frank sign.
They later pull out of the parking lot, and visible to the left are two mural versions of Elaine Hanelock’s popular psychedelic old Hollywood posters that she did in 1968, one featuring Charlie Chaplin, the other featuring Mae West and W.C. Fields. This is the first of three appearances of Hanelock’s series. They later crop up again in mural form in the Cliff Booth and Bruce Lee fight scene, and again, as posters inside George Spahn’s house.
Musso & Frank appears once more later on in the film, during a neon sign montage.
Rick’s Car Accident – Frolic Room
6245 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
During the Musso and Frank lunch, we find out the reason Cliff drives Rick everywhere is because of Rick’s drunk driving. A flashback shows him in the back of a police car, visible through the back window is his wrecked car in front of the Frolic Room.
Originally opening as a speakeasy in 1930, it turned legit in 1935 as Freddy’s Frolic Room. The Frolic Room is a popular filming spot, and was also featured in another favorite film of mine, LA Confidential. It’s also on my list of places to stop in and truly visit! One day!
Dumpster Dive – Super A Foods
2925 Division Street, Los Angeles
We are introduced to a group girls, members of the Manson Family, as they dumpster dive for food outside of Super A Foods.
James Dean Mural – S & S Pharmacy
2922 Division Street, Los Angeles
After scoring inside the Super A dumpsters, the girls make their way home and walk by a massive mural of James Dean from Giant.
This mural was done especially for the film on the wall of S & S Pharmacy. Sadly, unlike the Hanelock murals, it has already been painted over, in a drab cream color.
Pussycat Theater – Previously Hologram Theater
6656 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
After dropping Rick off at home, Cliff speeds away, weaving in between cars along Hollywood Boulevard. While there are many iconic places in this sequence, I love that for a split second you can spy the Pussycat Theater.
The space originally opened in 1913 as the News View, followed by The Ritz, and in 1974 became The Pussycat, an adult theatre. Eventually it became the Hologram, although it has since vacated the space.
The following day Cliff drops Rick off to film the pilot for Lancer, which was indeed a real show. Here Universal Studio’s “Six Points” (one of the oldest sets on the backlot) was used. As few westerns are made these days, Six Points is often part of the Tram Tour, and the following are photos from various visits to Universal.
In recent years Six Points and the adjoining Mexican Streets have been used in HBO’s Westworld and my favorite Lady Gaga music video, “Judas” which even takes advantage of the flash flood effect.
Pandora’s Box – Joseph’s Cafe
1771 Ivar Avenue, Los Angeles
After dropping Rick off, Cliff spies Pussycat, the hippie girl and Manson Family member, he and Rick crossed on their back to Rick’s place. Pussycat is seated outside Pandora’s Box and attempts to hitch a ride with Cliff, but they are going in opposite directions.
Pandora’s Box appearance in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a bit of anachronism as it was gone by the time the film takes place. The original Pandora’s Box was located at 8118 Sunset Boulevard. But for some reason Tarantino felt compelled to have it appear, and he went to extensive lengths to revamp Joseph’s Cafe.
Pandora’s Box operated as a teenage club, catering to the under 21 crowd, and featured popular acts such as the Smothers Brothers and the Beach Boys. On November 12, 1966 a peaceful protest turned violent and was immortalized in Buffalo Springfield’s song “For What It’s Worth.” The result of the protest? All under 21 clubs were forced to close and Pandora’s Box was demolished in August of 1967.
Fox Westwood Village Regency Theater & Bruin Regency Theater
Sharon Tate (as played by Margo Robbie) takes the day to run errands. After parking behind the Fox Westwood Village Theater, she makes her way to pick up a book she ordered, but not before stopping to marvel at her name on the marquee of the Bruin. After picking up her book, she decides to see her own film, The Wrecking Crew. She tells the ticket girl that she’s in the picture, then the ticket girl photographs her standing next to the poster. I love the irony that the frame that was used for The Wrecking Crew poster was displaying the poster for The Suicide Squad, which stars Robbie, during our visit.
I absolutely adore old cinemas, and would love to actually visit these to see a movie one day, and when I do, I’ll update the post with interior shots of the Bruin.
Cliff picks up Pussycat – Intersection of Burbank Boulevard and Denny Avenue, North Hollywood
After dropping crossing paths twice already, Cliff finally meets Pussycat, who is still hitchhiking.
In the film Cliff asks “You hitch up and down Burbank Boulevard all day until someone says they’ll drive you to Chatsworth?” and this location is in fact on Burbank Boulevard, the corner of Burbank and Denny to be exact. The business behind Pussycat is Jackalope Pottery, a garden center offering various pots, statues, and plants.
After picking up Pussycat, Cliff drives her to Spahn Movie Ranch, where she says she lives with her friends, the Manson Family. Manson did indeed convince owner George Spahn to let him and his cult live on the property, which was located in the Santa Susana Canyon, and the area is now Santa Susana Pass State Park. For filming Tarentino opted to film at another nearby former movie ranch, Corriganville, which is also a park today. Corriganville suffered multiple fires and today only a handful of foundations and walls from the stable remain. I suspect the film crew laid down boards to create a level surface over the Corriganville foundations to build their recreation of Spahn Movie Ranch. The walls of the old Corriganville stable are visible though in some shots.
We visited Corriganville a few years ago, so if you want to learn more about Corriganville, check out this post.
Columbia – Paramount Studio
5515 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles
After wrapping up filming for Lancer, Rick is picked up by Cliff outside what appears to Columbia Studios.
In reality this streamline moderne building and the large studio buildings next to it belong to Paramount Pictures, and the building Rick is picked up outside of is the one visitors go to for the Paramount Studio Tour.
6675 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
As Rick and Cliff drive along Hollywood Boulevard there is another split second where the Vogue Theater is visible.
The Vogue was originally built in 1935 in a streamline moderne style, and was remodeled in 1959. Closing in 1995 it has gone through several changes and today operates now as The Vogue Multicultural Museum and, as you can see, has a Pink Floyd Exhibition going on.
Marvin Schwarz Phone Calls & Restaurant in Italy – Cicada Club
Los Angeles’ supper club Cicada Club serves as multiple locations. It appears first when Marvin Schwarz calls his Italian director friend while watching FBI, this scene was shot in the upstairs bar. Later Marvin calls Rick from the main floor of the restaurant.
As I am limiting my indoor experiences at the moment, I hope to return to Cicada and get shots to match these screencaps sometime in the future. However you can see some interior shots from our previous visits to Cicada, and learn more about its history, here and here.
Once Rick accepts the spaghetti western roles, he is happily bombarded with paparazzi at a restaurant, which is actually the exterior of Cicada.
What I find interesting about the above shot in particular is that you can notice the address visible in the upper right, 617. If you look closely in the screencap, you’ll see the address is backwards, meaning they shot this in the other direction (as Cicada has its address on both columns) and then flipped it. I didn’t notice this until I started editing and matching photos after shooting.
Cicada is a popular filming location, and was also used in Pretty Woman and American Horror Story: Hotel.
Cliff picks up Brandy – Avenue 26 Small Animal Hospital
609 W Ave 26, Los Angeles
Once Cliff and Rick return from Europe, Cliff stops by a vet to pick up his beloved dog, Brandy. The location is indeed a vet, and while I did not go inside, you can see through the frosted glass the same chairs as seen in the film.
In the later half of the film a montage showcases various businesses lighting up their signs for the night. It was a small touch that really had nothing to do with the story, but that I really loved.
14232 Newport Avenue, Tustin
The Taco Bell used for the film is located in Tustin, and I loved the attention to detail, recreating the colorful letters across the top, and the sign. Old Taco Bells used to have a fire pit out front, and this one still does, although it is now damaged. In the film they chose to make the fire pit a planter.
Pacific Cinerama Dome
6360 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
When Patrick and I saw Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, we chose to see it at the Cinerama Dome, for a couple of reasons. I’d always wanted to go, as it is a unique piece of LA architecture, and it was used in the film. What I especially loved was that during our visit it was dressed up as it was in the film (which is the image you see above), and included the two cars used in the film. You can see more of our visit and learn more about this unique cinema here.
Prior to the pandemic, ArcLight operated the Cinerama Dome, however, amid the pandemic they shuttered, and currently various rumors swirl as to which cinema company will take over.
6321 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
The Vine originally was called The Admiral, receiving its new name and updated look sometime in the late 1960s. Today it operates as a one of Dolby’s screening rooms.
The Supply Sergeant is a real military surplus store, in operation since 1948, with multiple locations.
2018 W. Burbank Boulevard, Burbank
Chili John’s is another legendary eatery, and one I have yet to dine at! But one day!
Wienerschnitzel – Taqueria Los Primos #3
1910 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach
Like the Taco Bell, this location is no longer a Wienerschnitzel, even though once upon a time it was. Today it is Taqueria Los Primos #3, but I do love that for one brief moment it got to be dressed up as a Wienerschnitzel again.
The sign montage comes to and end as El Coyote’s neon sign lights up, and Sharon and her friends pull into its parking lot on the evening of August 8, 1969. This is indeed where Sharon and her friends dined that night, however, unlike the happy ending of Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, this would be there last meal before being brutally murdered by the Manson Family.
We visited El Coyote back in 2019 (and I have yet to return since, the above photo is from that 2019 visit, but I hope to return soon) and you can read and see more about that visit here.
Like Cicada, Casa Vega also has multiple appearances. It first appears earlier in the film as the restaurant in Spain where Rick breaks it to Cliff that he doesn’t think he can afford to keep him on any longer.
It returns later as itself, where Cliff and Rick go to have one more night together and indulge in multiple margaritas.
Patrick and I visited the exterior during the day while in the Valley, and then later returned for dinner on August 8, at 8:30 (around the time Cliff and Rick visit) where I indulged in my first alcoholic drink in well over a year. I’m not a big drinker, but I decided to get one in the spirit of the evening, and boy did it hit me hard!
I have been very selective about indoor dining during the pandemic, visiting only a handful of places, including Musso & Frank and Casa Vega. My hope is that once COVID is a thing of the past, I can return to some of these indoor places and snap more pictures and update this post in the future.
There are a few more filming locations that are not as easy to get to, but I do hope to one day visit (and update this post accordingly) including…
Melody Ranch– Melody Ranch, one of the last remaining movie ranches, was used in the very beginning of the film as the Bounty Law set. Melody Ranch was also used in Deadwood and HBO’s Westworld.
The Pan Am Experience– A fan of the golden age of flying, I’ve wanted to do the Pan Am Experience since I first heard about it years ago, however it’s tragically expensive. The Pan Am Experience was used in the beginning of the film when Sharon is seen dancing aboard a plane, and later when Cliff and Rick return from Europe.
LAX – Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski arrive in LAX at the beginning of the film, and later, Cliff, Rick, and his “spankin’ new Italian wife” Francesca Capucci follow the same path near the end of the film.
Playboy Mansion – Yet another anachronism is Sharon and Roman attending a party at the Playboy Mansion complete with Playboy bunnies. While built in the 1920s, Hugh Hefner did not purchased the property until 1971.
Excelsior High School – During the film Cliff has a flashback moment to when he and Rick were guest appearing on The Green Hornet and Cliff gets into a fight with Bruce Lee. Excelsior High School stood in for the studio.