FLICKS. RIFFS. AND OTHER BITS.

Talking movies, music and other close encounters of the social media kind.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA.

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On October 2014 I embarked on a month-long trip to the United States Of America.

I have always wanted to go stateside. Not only to visit the famous cities and sites (Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Las Vegas & San Francisco) but also to visit some of my favourite film locations.

It ended up being a very special journey.

So, here’s a story about finding one of these film locations.

And by total accident, it happened to be the very first place we stayed in America.

LOS ANGELES, THE LAX HILTON HOTEL & THE GREAT CRIME THRILLER – HEAT.

So after a bumpy 12 hour flight that consisted of a rather fat lady behind Vaughans’ seat coughing her lungs out every 10 minutes, and everybody on the plane thinking she might have the Ebola virus, an hour or two checking emails and writing on the Laptop, three hours trying to figure out what in-flight movie to watch (What We Do In The Shadows, Transformers 4 or series one of Ray Donovan), an hour downing a few Steinlagers with dinner and then spilling a fine red because of the turbulence, and just a tiny bit of sleep,  we finally arrive in LAX Airport and the City of Angels.

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The LAX Hilton Hotel, Los Angeles.

To get over the jet-lag before our next flight to New York, we stay one night at the LAX Hilton – located close to the Airport. After only a little bit of sleep on the plane, I was looking forward to a relaxing evening. Hopefully in a pool and drinking a nice cold beer.

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It was only until the bus drove past the driveway to the hotel that I slowly began to realise that we had arrived at a place that I had seen before.

A place I had seen from a movie.

I quickly rub my eyes.

It can’t be.

Is this the place where they filmed the final scenes of the crime-thriller HEAT?

As Bev and Vaughan took their bags towards the lobby, I stood still for a moment.

But my eyes start wandering like a Fat Freddys’ Drop song.

It can’t be.  

We get to the reception area. I’m immediately looking at my phone, checking Google if this is indeed the place. And yes. It surely is.

Wow.

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Vaughan and Bev lean on big marble table at the Hilton LAX Lobby.

The first place we stay in the U, S of A. And it happens to be a famous film location of one of my favourite films of all-time. Of all the hotels in Los Angeles…we’re in this one.

To the travel agent who recommended this place, you deserve a bloody Oscar.

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If you haven’t seen the movie HEAT, it’s a classic crime thriller made by Michael Mann in 1995. It’s on the list of my top ten films of all time. And it also starred two of the greatest actors of our time – Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

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When we were planning our trip to LA, I told Bev that one of the film locations I really wanted to visit was Kate Mantilini’s Diner and to sit at the very table where the two acting legends have that famous cafe scene together (pictured above).

Here’s the cafe scene in all its’ glory:

So going to the Diner where that famous scene was played out was a big deal and a big bucket list item. But when we looked it up…

Kate Mantilinis’ had closed months ago.

Gutted.

So, being at the LAX Hilton where HEAT was filmed was totally unexpected and a wonderful surprise. For a self-confessed movie geek – this was like Indiana Jones finding the Ark Of The Covenant – without even trying to look.

What a great place to start our American journey.

GATHERING EVIDENCE.

So, after a pizza and watching a quarter of College Football on ESPN, I convinced Vaughan to come downstairs and take a photo of me at the lobby, at a similar spot where Robert De Niro was in the film. I needed evidence that I was actually here. Took a bit of art-direction, (which was me directing Vaughan the best place to take the photo) but we managed to get the shot.

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Down at the lobby where Neil MacCauley (Robert De Niro) was in the movie HEAT.

THE FINAL ACT.

I even went out and took a photo of the side of the hotel where the final act of this great crime thriller is played out.

Here’s the lowdown of that scene:  It’s after Macauley (De Niro) has killed Waingro (a very bad guy) in his hotel room. He lets off the fire alarm, so everyone in the hotel starts evacuating. He heads towards the car, where his newfound love, Edie (played by Amy Brennenan) is waiting for him.

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But…in the distance, amongst the crowd, he sees Al Pacinos’ Vincent Hanna coming from the other side, who also sees him. Like a wolf after his prey, Hanna closes in.

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Hanna takes out his firearm, but a fire truck gets in his way. Macauley looks at Edie. His facial expression has suddenly changed. Edie gets out of the car and stares back at him. Confused as to why he suddenly stopped walking towards her.

‘”Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.”

This was Macauley’s strict code which he mentioned previously in the film. Now, he must tragically follow it – and leave his one chance at love behind.  He sadly walks away, leaving Edie standing there alone. Hanna runs past the fire truck and through the crowd. Gun in hand, he runs straight past her in pursuit. Minutes later, MacCauley will be killed by Hanna in a tense showdown near the Airport runway at LAX.

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With only the orchestral soundtrack building up the moment, nothing is said throughout the entire sequence. It is only portrayed through subtle looks, hints and actions. But it’s conveyed in the most powerful and tragic way.

What a scene. Played out to perfection by the actors and brilliantly directed by Michael Mann.

And here I was. At the very place where that great scene happened. Remembering it all. Playing it out in my head, as I stood on the side of this driveway. When suddenly…

“HEY YOU!  YOU CAN’T STAND THERE! THIS PLACE IS OFF LIMITS!”

The security guard, with a gun in his holster, had come up behind me. I quietly began to freak out.

‘If you feel the heat around the corner’  – DeNiros’ words were now ringing true. For me.

“Oh god, I’m really sorry, but…”

I suddenly pause for a moment. And then proceed to ask a very silly question.

Especially to a man who has a side arm.

“Ahhh…is this the driveway where they filmed that final scene in Heat?”

“YES. THEY SHOT THAT MOVIE HERE. BUT THEY FILMED THAT FINAL SCENE ON THE OTHER SIDE. YOU’RE ON THE WRONG SIDE BUDDY.”

“Oh.” Duh.

I apologised to the guard again and rushed towards the other side and took a photo – with his permission of course. I guess he took pity when I said I was from New Zealand.

“NEUW ZEEELAND? OH YEAH – YOU’RE THE GUYS WHO LOST THE AMERICAS ‘CUP EH?”

“Ah, yes. That’s correct.”

Wonderful. A sense of humour.

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Taken from my camera. The old wooden fence is still there but there’s now a concrete wall on the right. Managed to catch plane in the background.

 

Bev and Vaughan couldn’t understand why I didn’t take photos of the beautiful Palm Trees across the road from the hotel, to herald in our coming to America – which would’ve got at least 40 likes on instagram (with a nice filter).

Instead, I was taking a photo of a desolate driveway down the side of this hotel.

This hotel.

That happened to be the film location of one of my favourite films of all-time.

As I spent my first night in the States, relaxing by the LAX Hilton Hotel rooftop pool, listening to ‘God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters‘ by Moby on my iPod (from the Heat Soundtrack).

Drinking a nice cold beer.

It tasted great.

Hello America.

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This entry was posted on April 29, 2016 by .
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