“I remember the first time I got off the plane in LA. I came up to Hollywood, on La Brea or La Cienega, I can't remember, through the oil fields,” says L.A. Confidential production designer Jeannine Oppewall. “And I thought to myself: ‘What the hell kind of city is this, with oil fields in the middle of it?’”
For Oppewall, who spoke to Curbed LA on the eve of the 1997 neo-noir’s 20th anniversary, the illusory romance of the City of Angels was stripped away in an instant. That's what the movie does too, puncturing our inflated ideas of Old Hollywood glamour by plumbing the psychological depths of its key characters and (sometimes literally) exposing the rot underneath.
As if to underscore that point, director Curtis Hanson shot the film at a number of locations noted for their nostalgic allure: The Frolic Room, Formosa Cafe, Boardners, Crossroads of the World. Within them, you are as likely to find gangsters and call girls as movie stars. It’s not that the director (who grew up in Los Angeles) wants us us to despise the city. He simply encourages us to see the beauty in its contradictions.
“The character represents how I feel about Los Angeles and what I want people to feel about LA,” Hanson told the Los Angeles Times of Kim Basinger’s high-class call girl and Veronica Lake-lookalike Lynn Bracken. “She’s a natural beauty with a phony image, a disguise that’s all about selling it to the suckers. But when you go beyond the image, as when you go beyond LA as the city of manufactured illusion, the character is not only beautiful but totally self-aware. Underneath, she knows the truth about who she is. Everybody else is struggling to figure it out.”
Below, Oppewall takes us on a tour of the film’s locations, spanning from the hills of Los Feliz to the suburbs of Long Beach. It’s all off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.
(Note: Several of the locations listed are private residences. Please be respectful.)Read More