It was a Whirlwind Extraordinaire yesterday as I arrived home from Seattle and hit the ground running. In the space of a day, I made it from 7th and Montana to Paris, New York, Louisiana and Chicago, then stopped off on the Planet Krypton for good measure. The folks at Warner Bros. set me and a visiting colleague up for a tour of their back-lot yesterday and not only was it impressive, it led me to believe that Rome really can be built in a day if you put your mind to it. If the building in the photo above looks familiar to you, it's because it came from the 1942 classic, Casablanca. It was used as the french cafe in the scene where Rick and Ilsa reminisce about their past. In reality, "We'll always have Paris" means "We'll always have that set on the Warner Bros.' back-lot." The cafe is the only remaining building from the Casablanca set.
From there it was a quick stop in New York where I popped my head into the "Central Perk" coffee shop where the cast from Friends used to hang out. Even though they're not filming Friends anymore, they reconstructed the set a couple of years ago at Jay Leno's request. Here's some little-known trivia: The character of Gunther, the oddball manager of Central Perk, wasn't originally supposed to be part of the show. While they were filming the pilot, one of the producers decided on-the-spot that they needed someone to run the espresso machine. They asked all of the extras whether anyone knew how to use it and only one did, an actor named James Michael Tyler who had prior experience as a Barista. As a result, he became a regular on the show appearing in more than half of the episodes. Who knew there was more than one Barista Tyler?
From there it was on to the Jungle. Warner Bros. is the only studio that keeps a Jungle set on its back lot. It's sort of tucked away behind Gotham City and is used for a variety of purposes. Currently, it doubles as a swamp in Louisiana and is where they film the HBO vampire series True Blood. In the show, the building above serves as Merlot's, a local hang-out owned by a friendly shapeshifter.
Harry Potter fans might recognize the car above. It's the flying 105 E Ford Anglia used by Harry and Ron to get to Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Today it sits in the Warner Bros. garage, alongside Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino (which was both used in the film and really belongs to him) and Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine.
I ended the tour with a quick swing through Metropolis. The building above is The Daily Planet, where Clark Kent works alongside a crew of crack investigative journalists who never seem to notice that he's actually Superman. With powers of observation like that, something tells me our Notorious Neighborhood Newspaper Thief would have a field day there ...!