If the upcoming movies "Hollywoodland" and "The Black Dahlia" prove anything, it's that making a movie set in old Los Angeles ain't what it used to be.
Both films are set in Hollywood's more glamorous past -- "Dahlia" in 1947 and "Hollywoodland" in 1959 -- and deal with mysterious deaths: "Dahlia" concerns the murder of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, while "Hollywoodland" investigates the supposed suicide of George Reeves. And for both, the majority of their shoots took place not only out of the city but out of the country: "Hollywoodland" decamped to Toronto, and "Dahlia" flowered in Sofia, Bulgaria.
"It's an ironic truth," "Hollywoodland" director Allen Coulter says.
The films were made on moderate budgets -- "Hollywoodland" for $16 million, "Dahlia" for $65 million. And it was primarily budget considerations that forced the filmmakers to shoot outside the U.S. "Hollywoodland" producer Glenn Williamson says his production saved about $2 million shooting in Toronto, and "as a percentage of the budget, that is very meaningful."
Williamson and Coulter tried everything to shoot in Los Angeles, but even if the financial barriers hadn't been there, other roadblocks existed. The current owners of Reeves' house had no interest in working with the filmmakers, and neither did the owners of venerable restaurant Musso & Frank's.
And then there's the sad state of historical architecture in Los Angeles. "The ground floors on virtually every street in Los Angeles have been doctored and look like a contemporary facade," Coulter says. "Changing those facades is prohibitively expensive. In Los Angeles, there's no real interest in maintaining any kind of sense of its own historical architectural past. It's a shame."