The Oscars are headed to downtown Los Angeles’ Union Station this year for the first time, but the historic site and active transportation hub is already a movie star.
John Parkinson and his son Donald Parkinson’s stunning blend of Mission Revival and Art Deco styles has been a popular film site since it was completed in 1939, with supporting roles in movies from Blade Runner to The Dark Knight Rises.
“Visually, it’s such an incredible place and it’s such a throwback to old Hollywood,” said JJ Levine, a location manager. “I love that the Oscars are going to be there.”
Union Station has been in car commercials, reality shows and procedurals. Levine shot there for NCIS: Los Angeles. But with its beamed ceilings, Spanish tile floors and regal bronze chandeliers, it really shines in cinema when it is playing a train station, bank, police station, club or airport.
“Through its corridors and main lobby have passed gangsters (Bugsy), drug dealers (Mike’s Murder), political protesters (The Way We Were), munchkins (Under the Rainbow) and even an alien in heat disguised as a railroad conductor (Species),” filmmaker Thom Andersen observed in his 2003 documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself.
The building is also a “favourite site for movie kidnappings” in films like Nick of Time and To Live and Die in L.A.
And it does not always play itself.
It is the police station in Blade Runner and the LA International Airport in The Replacement Killers. It was a New York railway station in the World War II epic Pearl Harbour and the modern Justin Timberlake rom-com Friends with Benefits.
It was the exterior of a 1950s movie studio in Hail, Caesar!, Demi Moore’s pad in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, and the insurgents’ Gotham City courthouse in The Dark Knight Rises. It also had a starring role in the 1950 film noir Union Station, with William Holden and Nancy Olson, but that was set in Chicago.
“I can’t wait to see it. I’m sure it will look fantastic,” said Mike Fantasia, a supervising location manager who worked there on Catch Me If You Can and Seabiscuit.
In Catch Me If You Can, the ticketing area was transformed into the Miami bank where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character meets Elizabeth Banks’s teller.
For Seabiscuit, they turned the then-defunct Harvey House restaurant into a club.
“Everyone wants to go there because it’s an iconic building in Los Angeles. It’s been beautifully maintained and restored. It’s just a classic building,” Mr Fantasia said. “You see the exterior, you see that ticket booth — anyone who knows LA knows where you are.”
It is not cheap to shoot there, Mr Fantasia said, but “you more than get your money’s worth”.
Union Station also recently wrapped an eight-year, 4 million dollar (£2.87 million) restoration, so will be looking its best for the stars and viewers around the world on Sunday.
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