Movie travel destinations

December 12, 2007

Are you a set-jetter? And nope, I didn’t write that wrong. With the seemingly endless need these days for one-word sound bites and catchphrases – the interminable celebrity “blended name” phenomenon (wasn’t that supposed to burn out, like, 2 years ago?) and the constant barrage of new e-words like bacn (hint: it’s not spam) – there is even a cute little term for film tourism: set-jetting. Like jet-setting, but, you know, backwards, where “set” refers to a film set, and jet … well, you probably got all that long, long ago. It’s people who travel to visit places where movies were shot or take place, okay?

Um, anyway, if you are a set jetter, or one of your Christmas gift recipients is and that DVD package just won’t cut it this year (if they have the original release and the collector’s edition of that DVD, they probably don’t need the ultimate director’s cut special edition in a collectible painted tin as well, but that’s just a hunch), there are plenty of great destinations for you to try out.

Of course, one option is to just travel to famous film locations like New York, Paris, London, and so on, and see the sights yourself. Apparently, UK’s film board is hoping that many people think that way after this movie holiday season and will want to soon set-jet off to see the locations prominently displayed in new films like The Golden Compass and upcomers like the new James Bond and The Dark Knight.

Here are some fun film location activities you can do on your own:

The real “Hogwarts Express” in Scotland

Hogwarts Express (Harry Potter) – aka, the Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland
Pictured above.
(Approx. £29 round trip for an adult, second class. Less than 6 hrs round trip. For dates of operation, fares, timetables, and more, click here.)

I’m very excited, because I’ve actually done this one and can, you know, speak from experience, which is always a bonus. Steaming its way from the small Highland town of Ft. William in Western Scotland to the very small port village of Mallaig (try the Smoked Haddock Soup at one of the seafood restaurants during your 2 hr break in the town; trust me, it’s worth it), and then back, the Jacobite Steam Train and its route were both used in the Harry Potter films as subs for the gleaming Hogwarts Express and its journey to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Sadly, the interior is not quite Hogwarts material – and no magical candy cart! the indignity… – but the scenery on the ride is spectacular, and when else are you ever going to ride on a true steam train?

Bonus: Ft. William sits right next to the beautiful Glen Nevis, a location featured in Braveheart and also Harry Potter, among other films.

Cinderella’s palace (Ever After) – aka, Château Hautefort, France
Pictured below.
(Entrance fee is €8.50 for an adult. Click here for hours, directions and other information.)

Okay, while it’s not Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany or the (supposed Sleeping Beauty inspiration) Château d’Ussé in France, both of which helped inspire Disney’s original animated Cinderella, it does have the unique distinction of being the home of Drew Barrymore’s Prince Charming (Dougray Scott) in Ever After. Complete with drawbridge and turrets, the exterior and interior of Château Hautefort were used in many scenes in the film (that cool beamed room where Leo da Vinci paints? actually in the castle itself).

Not to mention the fact that it’s located in the gorgeous rolling hills and fields of the Périgord, kind of a lesser-known version of Provence if you will. Since it seems as if Périgord literally has a castle on every hill top, make sure to leave some time to see more than one, particularly the towering Beynac (a darn cool fortress built in the 12th century that was also used in Ever After) and the cute little village (used in Chocolat) that sits below the castle and along the Dordogne river. The Périgord area also has some pretty impressive caves (with cave drawings!), including Lascaux (or its replication anyway; the original is closed off to tourists, but the replication is startlingly authentic, minus that rubbery-style plastic floor, of course) and my personal favorite, Padirac (ever want to feel like you’re in that mythical boat that goes across the river Styx? now’s your chance!).

If you like this castle, you may definitely want to consider looking up Chatsworth in England, the Pemberley in Keira Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice (and rumored to be the inspiration for the original Darcy abode in the classic Austen novel). For a complete Pride and Prejudice movie tour in England, check out this tour provided by British tours. And if you happen to be in India and have some free time, you might want to look up the Golden Temple in Amritsar, which was featured prominently in Bride and Prejudice (title similarity to Austen novel definitely not coincidental).

The Beach (The Beach) – aka, Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Leh, Thailand
(I have no idea. Maybe Wikitravel knows?)

Enough with the cold places, I think. And for this one, I think I’ll let it speak for itself. Or rather, the pictures speak for themselves. It was the location of The Beach after all.

And I would recommend the so-called James Bond Island (from Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun), otherwise known as Khao Phing Kan, while you’re in Thailand, but I think that one may have already succumbed to mass set-jetting (i.e., tourism overload disorder).

Also check out other beautiful film locations, such as Malta and Tenerife, in Expedia UK’s Top ten film set locations list.

◊ ◊ Budget Travel does an excellent real world breakdown of various film spots and moments (including restaurants, shops, streets, mansions, trains, etc.) from 10 different movies released in ’07, such as The Bourne Ultimatum, Atonement and even Ratatouille (the more people-size side of things, though).

◊ ◊ At Ripple Effects: also make sure to check out Arti’s own beautiful photos of famous film locations like Petra (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade but without the Holy Grail), Lacock (Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice miniseries – remember Meryton?) and Bath (Austen again). Scroll down for the Petra photos, which are definitely a not-miss.

Chateau Hautefort

♦ ♦ ♦

But let’s be honest, why go to all that effort when someone can just do all that troublesome “finding” and “researching” work for you? Here are some organized tours that will take you through everything you want to see. And yes, I know the distinction between some of these and the items in the previous list may be a bit hazy, but what can I say, I like living on the edge.

Lord of the Rings – New Zealand

With the success of the epic trilogy, let’s just say it’s highly unsurprising (bordering on dull) that many New Zealand tour grips have developed their own specialized tours that guide your through the various (and quite breathtaking) sites used in Peter Jackson’s fantasy films. Activities could include everything from simply viewing the valley of Helms Deep to rafting the Anduin.

Here are a bunch of options. Costs, naturally, vary widely by trip and the trips last anywhere from half a day to over 2 weeks (for the truly dedicated fans, I’m guessing).

All things Dracula – Transylvania

Because nothing says “vacation” like a ritual killing of the living dead. Yep, that – along with a viewing of “Dracula’s castle,” a stop at Vlad the Impaler’s citadel and the consumption of something called a “Vampire dinner” (totally benign, I’m sure, this is Transylvania after all) – is included in Transylvania Live’s well-known Vampire in Transylvania: Dracula tour. Don’t worry, I’m, say, 86.5% sure that the ritual killing isn’t real.

Price is generally €1390 per person for a 7 day / 6 night trip (meals, entry fees, etc. included).

Steep? Well, good news, the site declares that the whole trip is available for free if:

You don’t have a reflection in the mirror,
You decompose when sun light strikes you,
You’re over 200 years old,
Can use your wings to fly to Transylvania,
[…] Come join your fellow vampires in Transylvania.
Blood treats not included

Transylvania Express (a railway tour company) also offers 4 and 5 day Dracula trips starting at €945 / €1994. They also offer special Dracula trips for groups.

Pirates of the Caribbean – Dominica, in the Caribbean Sea (appropriately enough)

I know what you’re thinking. Pirates? Really? Isn’t it time that someone finally pays attention to this film trilogy? Well, fortunately, at least the Tamarind Tree Hotel and Restaurant on the Caribbean isle of Dominica agrees with you! They’ve thought ahead of the curve to design a 7-day package that takes you to all those Depp-graced spots on the island.

For 2007-2008 rates and other information, click here.

Don’t want to stop there? Check out about.com’s look at some of the other Caribbean locales used in the Pirates film shoot.

… and much, much more – New York, San Francisco, Philly, and D.C.

Come to New York and you see a movie scene around every corner – isn’t that where Sally ate her (extremely) good sandwich? or where Sara ate her slightly-less-than serendipitous frozen hot chocolate? And sure, you can visit Katz’s Deli and Serendipity 3 yourself (and, well, brave the waits yourself as well – expect about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour wait at Serendipity on the weekends if you haven’t reserved, a little less if you have), but why not have a tour company take you to all the other sights you might not think of?

On Location Tours provides approx. 2 to 4 hour tours of movie (and TV) spots in the Big Apple (and Washington DC), with tours that specialize in everything from Sex and the City to just Central Park, for about $15 to $40 per person.

Washington Walks offers a Bus, Camera, Action! Reel Washington 3 hr tour for $30 of the national capital’s big movie spots, such as those seen in All the President’s Men and The Exorcist.

Not to be left out, San Francisco has its own handy tours, including these two Hitchcock-inspired tours (because what trip can really be fun without getting totally spooked out?) that guide you through those eerie (or they will be) sights from Vertigo and The Birds (which includes a Shadow of a Doubt sighting as well).

Also, while this is totally unguided (I know, I know, but this tour fits in so well in this section!), tourism organizations in Philadelphia and DC have banded together to produce a National Treasure guide to the two political capitals.

And for more of a fun list of sights in NY and the movies shot there (from the Central Park reservoir and Times Square to those oh-so-realistic, palatial Manhattan apartments – and just because you’re on TV, don’t think we’re not looking at you, Monica Gellar!), click here. For movie location mistakes in NY (that’s the NY subway??), and other cities, click here.


Fun end of the year lists

December 7, 2007

With the jury still out on whether I will finally beat this now seriously annoying cold, I have no choice but to hope my current state of woozy will be somehow beneficial to my writing (clearly I’ve reached the delusional stage). I’m thinking no such luck, but while I’m stuck inside watching the same Buffy episodes over and over again and eating junk food that I’m sure my pro-organic friends would disapprovingly frown over (and any self-respecting doctor), I do have some time to check out lots of movie articles.

Here’s what caught the attention of a tissue-loving girl:

It’s a Wonderful Life voted best Christmas film of all time

Now there’s a shocker. Nevertheless, I must protest: no A Christmas Story in the top ten? Sure, it can be corny at times, maybe we’re all a bit sick of it now and then (that annual 24-hour Christmas Day marathon on TV probably doesn’t help), and I know on some level we most likely all have a secret love-hate relationship with that persistently present leg lamp.

But be that as it may, you can’t deny the movie’s presence. I love Die Hard and all, but in the celluloid world of Christmas, I think A Christmas Story definitely deserves it No. 8 spot. I mean, I can see the need for popcorn escape on that day of all days, but really, Die Hard?? Nothing like adrenaline and action violence to bring a family together, I guess.

Top 10 Bizarre Movie-Star Interviews

Let’s just say some bathroom and drool issues are involved and leave it at that.

10 Things Movie Theaters Get Wrong

This isn’t a “the popcorn is too greasy” kinda list; think more aspect ratio stuff. But yep, I can definitely see why that incorrect frame turns Atonement into a whole ‘nother movie. Probably a movie that’s more appealing to teenage boys (and, okay, all men), but still not quite what the production team intended.


Six degrees of separation: Jane Austen in the movies

September 4, 2007

Starting to feel like Jane Austen is everywhere lately? Well, you’re not entirely wrong. All roads do seem to lead to Jane Austen these days. Here’s my (somewhat spooky?) six degrees of separation explanation:

One of the most popular adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is the 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett. However, Jennifer Ehle also starred in a slightly more scandalous (but still period) romance called Possession, with Jeremy Northam as her lover. Northam in turn played Mr. Knightley’s voice of reason to Gwyneth Paltrow’s matchmaking Emma in the 1996 big screen version of Jane Austen’s Emma (the inspiration for the film Clueless).

Paltrow, who, as it happens, is also one of the stars of the film Possession, is perhaps best known for bringing the theme of star-crossed lovers to new Oscar-worthy heights in Shakespeare in Love. However, making sure her love is star-crossed in Shakespeare in Love is Colin Firth (Lord Wessex), the British actor who famously introduced a dripping wet Mr. Darcy to a contemporary audience in that very same Pride and Prejudice miniseries with Jennifer Ehle.

Firth also played Mr. Darcy in a modern Pride and Prejudice adaptation, Bridget Jones’s Diary. Playing Mr. Wickham (or rather, Daniel Cleaver) to his Darcy in Bridget Jones was Hugh Grant, who also jilted women (but much more elegantly) in Emma Thompson’s Oscar-winning film adaptation of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Hugh Grant’s part does not end there, however. Grant became famous for playing a confused but lovable character in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Playing an important love interest in Four Weddings was Anna Chancellor (Henrietta), an actress who also played the formidable Caroline Bingley in, again, Jennifer Ehle’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries. Anna Chancellor, who, probably unsurprisingly, is actually related to the real Jane Austen, is also related to Crispin Bonham-Carter (and thus, Helena Bonham-Carter as well, his cousin), who played Anna Chancellor’s brother, Mr. Bingley, in that omnipresent Pride and Prejudice miniseries.

Crispin Bonhman-Carter also had a small role in Bridget Jones’s Diary, although unfortunately many of his scenes were cut. Appearing in Bridget Jones as well was Gemma Jones, who played the mother in both Bridget Jones and another Hugh Grant film, the aforementioned Sense and Sensibility. Gemma Jones can also be seen as Madam Pomfrey in Harry Potter, which additionally stars Julie Walters as Mrs. Weasley. Julie Walters, incidentally, takes on the role of Mrs. Austen, the “real” Mrs. Bennett, in Becoming Jane, in which James McAvoy and Anne Hathaway (as Jane Austen) play, of course, star-crossed lovers.

James McAvoy can also be seen in the upcoming adaptation of Ian McEwan’s book Atonement (Dec. 7 in the US, go here for Empire’s review of the film), in which he stars alongside Keira Knightley. Keira Knightley herself got her first Oscar nomination for playing Elizabeth Bennett in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Joe Wright (the director of Atonement). Knightley, in turn, also starred in Love Actually with Colin Firth (Pride and Prejudice) and three stars of Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant – Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman are also in Harry Potter together, alongside Julie Walters and Gemma Jones).

Back to Hugh Grant again then, the Brit plays an enamored bookstore owner in the romantic comedy Notting Hill, which also features Hugh Bonneville as the down on his luck Bernie. However, Bonneville can also be seen in a 1999 film adaptation of Austen’s Mansfield Park, which additionally stars James Purefoy. Purefoy himself seems to favor period dialogue, as evidenced in HBO’s Rome, where he played Marc Antony. Also starring in Rome was Ciaran Hinds, as Julius Caesar.

Besides doomed leaders, Hinds also does well portraying Austen men, as can be seen in the 1995 movie version of Austen’s Persuasion, in which he plays Capt. Wentworth, the former suitor of Anne Elliott’s main character. Persuasion also starred Samuel West as Mr. Elliot who, surprise surprise, also appears in Notting Hill with Bonneville and Grant as a, well, backside-obsessed actor.

Not to be forgotten, however, is Embeth Davidtz, who was also featured in Mansfield Park alongside Bonneville as the beautiful but scheming Mary Crawford. Davidtz additionally took on the role of romantic foil in Bridget Jones’s Diary, as Natasha. What’s more, the Bridget Jones movies were in fact written by Andrew Davies, who, it turns out, is the mastermind writer behind, yes, the Pride and Prejudice miniseries with Jennifer Ehle.