Get Shorty | 1995
At one point, Elmore Leonard’s novel was slated to be made into a film by Quentin Tarantino (a few years later he adapted Leonard’s Rum Punch as Jackie Brown), but Barry Sonnenfeld’s version is just perfect.
Chili Palmer (John Travolta) abandons the simple, honest world of loan sharking in Miami for the devious Machiavellian business of movie production in Hollywood. In fact, the whole film was shot in Los Angeles.
The ‘Miami’ restaurant in which Chili crosses swords with his nemesis Ray ‘Bones’ Barboni (Dennis Farina) was Italian ristorante Vesuvio’s in Santa Monica, which stood at 312 Wilshire Boulevard. The cuisine changed to French as Vesuvio’s became Fraiche, which itself has now closed down – apparently due to reopen as a Chinese restaurant. You can find it opposite the distinctive 1930 art deco block of 301-315 Wilshire Boulevard, clearly seen in the film.
When Chili drives off to retrieve his leather coat, “like the one Pacino wore in Serpico”, from Bones, the waterfront looks a lot more like Santa Monica than ‘Miami Beach’, and, indeed, Bones is staying at the city’s beautiful Georgian Hotel, 1415 Ocean Avenue. You might recognise the seafront hotel’s exuberant styling from another excellent film, The Opposite Of Sex.
Relations between Chili and Bones are not helped by a smack in the face and, when Chili’s boss drops dead, Bones seizes the chance to take control.
There’s a brief shot of Las Vegas’s Fremont Street to set the scene for the mysterious disappearance of somebody called Leo and a substantial amount of money.
Chili is dispatched to Hollywood, to collect $60,000 from schlock movie producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), arriving at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), where much of the plot centres around the left-luggage boxes in the Southern Terminal.
He tracks Zimm to the home of actress Karen Flores (Rene Russo), star of Zimm’s Grotesque: Part II, where he soon finds himself enthusiastically pitching Leo’s story as a potential script. Judging by Karen’s home, Zimm’s skid row productions pay more than you’d think, as she’s living in a very nice property at 22355 Carbon Mesa Road, in the very exclusive Carbon Canyon, above Malibu.
Chili stays at old favourite the Sunset Tower Hotel, 8358 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, familiar from loads of productions including Robert Altman’s The Player, the 2003 remake of The Italian Job and Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days.
The landmark deco Sunset Tower can be seen in the background as Chili and Harry drive along Sunset, past a huge billboard promoting Napoleon, with Martin Weir (Danny De Vito). It’s no coincidence that they spot the egocentric star Weir dining at Café Med, 8615 West Sunset Boulevard, the famous Italian restaurant on the Sunset Strip.
Zimm’s office is in the UTB Building, 6605 Hollywood Boulevard, beneath that icon of Tinseltown, an Angelyne billboard. It’s opposite celebrated underwear palace Frederick’s of Hollywood, outside which Bo Catlett and Wingate (Delroy Lindo and Jon Gries) park, on their mission to collect a debt from Zimm.
Chili tracks the supposedly dead Leo (David Paymer) to ‘Las Vegas’ and relieves him of his ill-gotten fortune. The ‘Vegas ’ hotel is the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, 2025 Avenue of the Stars in Century City, currently closed for a major revamp. And the deferential ‘beefeater’ doorman is a cameo from director Barry Sonnenfeld. The hotel is directly opposite the Creative Artists Agency Building, 2000 Avenue of the Stars, which you can see in Star Trek Into Darkness, Christopher Nolan’s Inception and The Green Hornet, with Seth Rogen.
Back in LA, Chili takes time out to catch a showing of Orson Welles’ Touch Of Evil. Clearly a film buff, he quotes dialogue along with the cast, which impresses Karen, who’s slipped in to join him. Although the pair emerge from the Aero Theater, 1328 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica (one of the homes of the American Cinematheque, and where Frank the Rabbit appeared in Donnie Darko), the cinema interior is the much more photogenic Egyptian-style Vista Theater, 4473 Sunset Drive, Hollywood. The Vista supplies the interior of a different cinema again in Scream 2, and appears as itself (seemingly transplanted to ‘Detroit’) in Tony Scott's Tarantino-scripted True Romance.
Chili and Karen arrange a meeting with Martin Weir at his grand mansion, 1017 North Crescent Drive, in – where else? – Beverly Hills, and Chili gives the star an acting masterclass.
Ineffably cool, Chili goes on to sort out stuntman-turned-enforcer Bear (James Gandolfini), knocking him down the stairs at what was Abiquiu, became Asian fusion restaurant Wokcano (no, seriously) but is currently empty, at 1413 Fifth Street, Santa Monica.
In a neck-brace after a heated discussion with Bones, Harry Zimm valiantly attends a production meeting. Over a meal at The Ivy, 113 North Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood – described as “a clubhouse for the entertainment industry” – he begins to realise that the script under discussion is not Mr Lovejoy but Chili’s story about Leo.
The closing shot pulls back to reveal a striking aerial view of the Sony lot in Culver City. If you want to see the lot yourself, there’s no need to get involved in criminal activities – just take the Sony Pictures Studio Tour.