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Seattle in Hollywood Movies: What’s Fact and What’s Fiction

7 min read
Seattle in Hollywood Movies

The Emerald City starred in some Hollywood classics, but oftentimes it was the other cities that played Seattle. How much do the Hollywood and real-life Seattle differ?

Plots in Seattle — Cameras in Vancouver and LA

Numerous Hollywood legendary movie plots unfold right in the streets of Seattle. We have Sleepless in Seattle, Singles, Battle in Seattle, Disclosure, Mad Love, Get Carter, Say Anything, Fear… The list could just rise and go up in the air like Space Needle. So, these are all Seattle movies, or are they?

Actually, not all of these movies are shot in Seattle. Some of them have scenes that feature some parts of the city but they aren’t filmed in Seattle. Others were filmed in the Emerald City, but it seems like they are portraying some completely different cities. How different is the real Seattle from the Hollywood version? Well, it really depends on which version we are talking about as each of them is quite different. In some versions, the imaginary Seattle differs just a little bit from the real one. On the other hand, in some versions, it seems almost as we are looking at some Seattle from a parallel universe.

The Emerald City in the Eyes of Hollywood

So, how different are these parallel universes, how far do movie directors go with their creativity? This is exactly what are we going to talk about today and try to provide some answers. We all know that each movie exists only in its own universe and that for the sake of quality artistic creation, everything is allowed. A great plot mustn’t suffer if the real-life facts don’t really work well with it. A great idea and a smart and creative screenplay can bend the facts as much as they like, as long as it’s for a good cause.

Anyhow, when we watch a great movie, we don’t care if some street is longer in the movie than in real life, or whether some building is higher, etc. However, it’s fun to hunt down those inconsistencies in your favorite movies, especially if they are portraying your hometown. So, how did Hollywood portray Seattle? Is Seattle really that rainy, loud, wet, cold, fast, and vibrant? What did Hollywood teach us about the Emerald City? Well, this great city is sometimes rainy and romantic, sometimes loud and scary, and other times it’s a busy jungle. It depends on what the movie needs to be. That said, let’s see how movies portray the Emerald gem, it’s streets, waters, buildings, parks, and it’s soul.

LA Can Look Like Seattle

los angeles like seattle

A genius director can make anything look like anything; even make Seattle look like a sunny Los Angeles. That is the point of being a director, managing to turn and bend any real-life thing

into your vision. This is exactly what Cameron Crowe did with “Say Anything.” He was so

successful in sculpting LA into Seattle that he even fooled the audience that knew Seattle

quite well. Crowe taught us that he could film in Seattle in the middle of California. He turned LA into Seattle so convincingly, almost as authentic as he would portray love, heartbreak, passion, and the urban lives of the youth.

Seattle Can Look Like Vancouver

view from vancouver

Did you know that the movie “50/50” wasn’t shot in Seattle? Does it come as a surprise

that the movie was actually shot in Richmond and Vancouver? Well, this isn’t the only movie that transformed the streets of Vancouver into downtown Seattle. 2012 Chronicle did it as well, just like Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Fifty Shades of Grey, Agent Cody Banks, and Battle in Seattle. These two cities have a lot in common, and it seems that it wasn’t that big of a challenge for Hollywood directors to turn Vancouver into Emerald City’s twin.

You Can Get Anywhere Fast

If the plot demands for a character to be somewhere fast, then you can bet that they will do just that. The plot doesn’t care if the street in question is actually a 30-minute ride or whether a character needs to there in 5 minutes. This is exactly what occurs in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Sleepless in Seattle, and The Fabulous Baker Boys. These movies re-tailored Seattle to fit their needs: the streets got shorter, the parks closer to the city center, and the traffic was magically forgiving toward the characters.

Every Apartment Looks at the Space Needle or the Water

According to these movies, every apartment has to have a view of either the lake or the Space Needle. However, we can completely understand this one! After all, the lake and the Space Needle are the true symbols of Seattle. So, of course, you would make some space in your shots for them. If you see a frame of an apartment window that has a view on the Space Needle, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out which city it is. However, it’s not just about sending a message. These iconic sites are alluring by themselves, and they’re worth a spot on the silver screen.

It Rains All the Time in Seattle

Sleepless in Seattle taught us that it always rains in Seattle. In real life, it doesn’t “rain nine months of the year in Seattle.” Still, this famous quote isn’t that far from the truth.

The Center Monorail Is Loud

The American remake of the Japanese horror classic portrays the Center Monorail as loud and somewhat frightening. In real life, the Seattle Center Monorail isn’t loud at all, but we guess that this chilling movie needed it to be for the sake of the atmosphere.

You Can Drive up to the Bainbridge Ferry

In one of the opening scenes from Disclosure, Michael Douglas gets out of the car that is parked right next to the entrance of Bainbridge ferry. Then he runs for a few seconds, and he’s on board. In real life, you can’t approach this area as easily. So, don’t let this movie fool you if you are late for the ferry; don’t count on jumping on it like Michael Douglas. However, the scene worked great on the screen as we could see Douglas’ wife in front of the car and him hopping on a ferry.

Nobody Will Hear You from the Women’s Restroom at the Volunteer Park Conservatory

In The Hand That Rocks the Cradle we see the nanny streaming in the restroom at Volunteer Park Conservatory. First of all, the building doesn’t have a restroom. Second of all, we guess that people would hear the screams since such an old building probably isn’t all that soundproof.

Bus for the Ferry Exists

In Disclosure, we see a fictional bus driving toward the ferry. We guess that the plot needed this bus, as Seattle did not. Pioneer Square and Bainbridge ferry are actually very close to each other.

Only Men Eat at the Athenian Inn in Pike Place Market

For some reason, women don’t enjoy wining-and-dining at the Athenian Inn Seafood Restaurant and Bar. We are not sure as to exactly why this is so since this small place looks quite charming. Nevertheless, that’s what Sleepless in Seattle taught us about the Emerald City. Maybe somewhere in that movie’s universe, there is another bar that only women enjoy, who knows.

You Can Just Take the Stairs in the Space Needle

Love Happens taught us that you can climb the stairs in the Space Needle. This isn’t true at all, but deciding to climb these stairs blends well with Aaron Eckhart’s personality. The stairs are in fact closed for the public and can be accessed only during a special Base 2 Space Fundraiser.

Vintage Buildings Have Elevators

The old two-story building from the Singles has an elevator, but in real life, this simply isn’t true. We guess that the last scene where Matt Dillon holds the elevator door wouldn’t be as powerful if he had to chase Fonda down the stairs. Plus, the whole scene was such an intimate moment for the two youngsters that it would be almost impossible to re-create it on some old stairway.

Every Person in Seattle Always Carries an Umbrella

The movie Love Happens taught us, among other things, that Seattle residents always carry an umbrella. As a matter of fact, it does rain often in Seattle. The residents of the Emerald City merely accepted this fact and learned to live with it. They are not afraid to get a bit wet, and they certainly don’t carry their umbrellas wherever they go.

The Inspiring City

Hollywood Seattle can sometimes be a bit funky, romantic, scary, or just plain fun. The Emerald City can be a lot of things on the silver screen because it is a lot of things in real life too. Real Seattle can also be loud, rainy, peaceful, hectic, gorgeous, impressive, lively, and cool. I guess it depends mostly on your mood, after all. Just as the directors shape it according to their vision, we guess that your mood and feelings shape it toward yours. Also, just as the directors brought Seattle to LA and Vancouver, you can take it with you wherever you go, and see any city as your dear Seattle.

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