Madame Tussaud’s Waxwork Museum

One of the things that my mother-in-law wanted to do in London was to visit this very famous and hugely popular waxworks museum. I have to say that I’d never had too much enthusiasm for going to this place which may surprise regular readers (yes, such people do actually exist!) who have witnessed me travelling wide and far just to get my picture taken with a statue of some sort. However, I have always had a slight problem with there being so many of them in one place and the rather high entry fees probably put me off a bit too!

Before we arrived in England though, I went online and was able to book the four of us some tickets for an early evening visit which were sold at 50% lower fare and I guess £15 per ticket in this day and age ain’t so bad. The first part of the museum is a red carpet affair with some of the world’s biggest and most famous movie stars on show. It certainly hits you how busy this place is which took me a little by surprise as whenever I’ve seen friends pictures on Facebook at this place it’s looked like there’s been plenty of room and space to wander freely and get your photo’s taken with the stars! However, in reality it’s a mad crush and you’ve gotta almost force your way through to the front to get that all-important picture. Luckily my wife and mother-in-law were pretty good at that and soon got into the spirit of the place whilst my father-in-law and I took a little longer to adjust to the hordes of people in attendance.

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The stars on show in this area included Sean Connery, Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Willis, George Clooney, Dame Judi Dench, Daniel Craig, Arnold Schwarzenegger (all pictured) as well as Russell Brand, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Emma Watson, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and many more.

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We then proceeded along the walking route to the ‘Sport’ section where I got my hands on the World Cup alongside England great Bobby Moore, met David Beckham again (there’s a model of him and his wife in the ‘Party’ zone) and got to hang out with rugby and tennis legends Jonny Wilkinson and Boris Becker.

It was in this section that I realised you really have to pick and choose the ones you want to get photographed with although I’m sure there are some people who do each and every model. Global superstars of past and present like Pele, Rafael Nadal, Tiger Woods and Usain Bolt featured among British talent like Tom Daley, Mo Farrah, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Lewis Hamilton and so on. All interesting to me but pretty much unknown by my wife and her parents!

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We passed through the royals (just too many people waiting for picture opportunities) and culture sections fairly quickly before stopping at the music section which was stocked full with models of pop queens like Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Adele, Cheryl Cole, Kylie and Rihanna. Other legends like Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, the Beatles and erm, One Direction were on display.

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In terms of the waxwork models the World Leaders zone was pretty much the last area of real interest with the likes of Barrack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Boris Johnson and David Cameron (but no Japanese politicians!) featuring among others not that my wife knew who the latter two were when she took the above photograph! We finished off things with the Spirit of London ride; a black cab ride through periods of British history such as Elizabethan and Victorian era’s, Shakespeare, the Plague, the Great Fire of London, The Industrial Revolution, the World Wars, the swinging sixties and so on

The finale was the Marvel Super Heroes and their 4D movie experience went down way better than expected having had to wait nearly twenty minutes to see it.

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Overall, we probably spent about 90 minutes in the place which in all honesty was fairly quick and proof that you could easily stay there for a few hours. Someone came up with the idea of stopping for dinner afterwards at the nearby Wetherspoon’s pub next to Baker Street Underground Station and my father-in-law finally got the chance to sample some fish and chips and a pint of Guinness.

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Top 10……Movie Locations Where You Can Stay

Hot on the tail of the top (double oh) 7 hotels featured in James Bond films here are the top 10 recommendations for other places where you can spend a night amidst movie history. Just to get things clear you have to pay to stay in all of the listed accommodation rather than just rocking up and pitching a tent outside the filming location!! This list, which is in no particular order, will take you around the globe and offers the full spectrum of price range.

1. Sidi Driss, (from $9 per night) Matmatat-Al-Qadimal, Matmata (Tunisia): Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) – No surprise that this one is featured. Coach loads of tourists stop off here every day yet very few of them actually stay the night! That’s probably because it’s very dirty with poor service! I was the only guest when I stayed there…..but it was a privilege to spend the night at Luke Skywalker’s home! Cheap too!More details here.

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2. On On Hotel (from $3 per night), 19 Phang-Nga Road, Talad Yai, Muang, Phuket  (Thailand): The Beach (2000) – Another ridiculously cheap place to stay. Leonard DiCaprio checks in to this rundown “Kao San Road” backpacker place but its nowhere near the legendary Bangkok spot where western travellers congregate. It is in fact way, way down south in Phuket town. More details here.

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3. Imperial Palace (from $49 per night), 3535 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109  (USA): Austin Powers International Man Of Mystery (1997) – This Nevada state city has been used in many movies over the years and could probably have it’s very own top 10 list (now there’s an idea!) but just the single hotel for this entry and that’s Alotta Fagina’s penthouse suite where Austin shagged her rotten to use his exact words!! It’s since been re-named as The Quad Resort & Hotel. More details here.

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4. Tiki Motel (from $?? per night), 7301 Santa Fe Avenue, Huntington Park, Los Angeles (USA): The Terminator (1984) – John Connor was conceived at this very run-down in what is perhaps the most pivotal point in the whole Terminator franchise. You could stay in the same room where Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese did the deed but in all honesty you probably wouldn’t want to! More details here.

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5. Royal Eagle Hotel (from $627 per night), 26-30 Craven Rd, London W2 3QB (UK): Trainspotting (1996) – The boys take a break from Scotland and head down south to London to do a drug deal. Sick Boy leads the guys out of Smallbrook Mews, across Craven Road in a parody of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover. The “small-time wasters” then wander into the Royal Eagle Hotel. More details here.

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6. Grand Hotel Evropa (from $30 per night), Vaclavske namesti 25, Prague (Czech Republic): Mission: Impossible (1996) – This was the headquarters of mysterious arms dealer Max (Vanessa Redgrave) in the first of this action spy film series based on the TV series from the 60’s and 70’s. More details here.

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7. Westin Grand (from $274 per night), Friedrichstrasse 158 – 164, 10117 Berlin  (Germany): The Bourne Supremacy (2004) – The luxury hotel where Landy stays. Bourne cleverly finds out at reception that she is staying in room 235. He then watches her leave from his position on the 4th floor and then takes the stairs down and goes through the hotels revolving doors where he gets in a taxi and follows her to the CIA hub. More details here.

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8. Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce Hotel (from $216 per night), Wollestraat 41-47, Bruges (Belgium): In Bruges (2008) – Dark, comedy thriller featuring Colin Farrell (Ray), Brendan Gleeson (Ken) and Ralph Fiennes (Harry) with the former two Irish hit-men lying low in the Belgian city at this canal-side hotel. More details here.

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9. Four Season’s Hotel (from $750 per night), Teyfikhane Sok No 1 SultanahmetIstanbul 34110 (Turkey): Midnight Express (1978) – This used to be the infamous Sultanahmet jail depicted in this biographical crime drama. More details here.

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10. Plaza Hotel (from $550 per night), 768 5th Ave, New York, NY 10019 (USA): Crocodile Dundee (1986) – What could be better than washing your backside in the same bidet that Mick Dundee (presumably) washed his posterior in? Well sadly that can’t be done here as the facilities don’t have bidets! The interior scenes were shot in the studio but you could still pretend and shout it from the window down to pedestrians on the street below!  More details here.

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‘Beyond The Movies’ – Behind The Scenes + Full Interview

‘Beyond The Movies’ is the title I’ve been using for the last few years on my Facebook film-related albums which feature mostly shooting locations but also include screenshots, memorabillia, exhibitions, toys, events and anything which takes the reader beyond the surface of that particular movie. These albums include Star Wars, James Bond, Jason Bourne, Terminator, Back To The Future, Mission Impossible, Super Heroes, Tokyo, Kansai, Asia, The USA, Australia, Europe, The UK and so on.

I often (well occasionally) get asked how I find out the details of each shot which I take so here, by way of a recent online interview I did, is a sneak-peak behind the scenes look at how things fall into place at the Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre in Tokyo.

 

Here is the full transcript of the interview which will no doubt be edited down quite a bit when it finally sees the light of day later in the year.

How did this obsession come about? I’ve always been interested in seeing such locations but after years of travelling and seeing the usual stuff like waterfalls, beaches, churches, temples and so on I became a bit bored of just doing the sights when I visit a place so hunting down these famous filming locations allowed me to see places in different ways whilst getting off the well worn and proverbial beaten track at the same time.

Do you choose your holiday destinations based solely on films shot there? Apart from maybe Tunisia I have never solely gone to a place just for locations but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t play a major part. Its usually a combination of a few things.

What were the first filming locations you went to? The first one I really remember was one of the Fijian islands which was used in the Tom Hanks survival movie ‘Castaway‘ but that was way back in 2002. It wasn’t until a trip to Phuket in Thailand in 2008 with my mate Ethan that I realised I was more interested in seeing the island from the James Bond film ‘The Man With The Golden Gun‘ and the hostel and beach from ‘The Beach‘ rather than your typical usual touristy sights. Of course a couple of those places I’ve just mentioned are sights in their own right but the hostel certainly isn’t and that was fun.

What has been your favourite location? There have been many. Something like Petra in Jordan which featured in ‘Indiana Jones & the last Crusade‘ was great but that’s a famous sight in its own right so I’d have to say that its the Star Wars stuff in Tunisia. Random places completely unknown by locals who have never seen the saga.

 

What’s been the most difficult one to find? Some of the ones here in Tokyo actually. I needed help from a couple of Japanese people to help me find locations from ‘The Grudge‘ as there was nothing in English and my Japanese skills don’t quite stretch to searching pages and pages of information written in Japanese kanji.

Have you ever failed to track down a place? Yes and I’m still a little gutted about it as it was a big important one. My driver and I just could not locate the igloo in the south west of Tunisia which was the exterior of the Lars Homestead in Star Wars Episodes IV and II.

What preparations do you make in advance? I watch the film with a notepad and pen taking notes on the time of the scene and using the pause button regularly. I then draw a rough sketch of the scene I want to replicate. The end credits of the film sometimes give a bit of fairly vague info on the locations or who the producers thank can give a helping hand. Basically I utilise the DVD extras to maximum effect by watching ‘making of…’ documentary, deleted scenes & listening to the directors commentary. Computer-wise I used to copy photos of scenes from the web if they were available and then printed them out for comparison shots. In recent times I have become a bit more modernised and use my iPad or iPhone to store the pictures on which is far better than a badly printed screenshot picture. I have also used my PSP in the past for ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ and ‘Bourne Identity’ stuff but the UMD format is basically a failed one so isn’t going to be so beneficial as very few films were released as a PSP video.

  

What resources do you use to help you? Having decided where I want to go to on a trip I cross-reference that place with ‘The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations‘ (Tony Reeves) book and website which is the grandaddy of filming locations information. Furthermore, I search Wikipedia, YouTube and the net in general where other movie fans have posted their stuff online but its not always so easy as certain ones, particularly the ones here in Japan, are not detailed well. Imdb can sometimes be as vague as just saying the country name but its filming locations section occasionally if I’m lucky goes much further in detail and even gives addresses. I also search out books and programmes with Mark Dermul’s Star Wars books in particular assisting me for finding the exact points which George Lucas used.

You appear in a lot of your photos so who takes them for you? Apart from a few trips with friends the vast majority have been taken by myself using a tripod and timer. For the record I appear in my pictures to stop people wanting to steal them off the internet and pass them off as their own…and of course because I’m very vain! haha!

Where does the name Tokyo Fox come from? Well my team Leicester City, who play in the league below the Premier League, are nicknamed the Foxes and I live in Tokyo so there you go.

What kind of person looks at the Tokyo Fox website? Good question! Apart from my parents, who themselves probably skim over all the film stuff, I know of very few of my family or friends who regularly look at it. I get a lot of hits for the Star Wars, Bourne, Back to the Future, James Bond, Terminator locations in particular from like-minded fans scouring google in search of these places which have played a part in movie history. Of course theres other stuff on there about Japanese life and travel etc which is quite popular too.

Do you have any plans to release a book? Well I’ve certainly considered it a few times and did start work on a Japan filming locations title but as ever these things get put aside while other things in my life take over. I’d like to pull my finger out one day and get something published but whether it will happen I don’t know. Watch this space…

 

What locations would you like to see in the future? Hmmm, not too many must-sees left but I am going to New York next month which has more films set there than anywhere else. Other than that then maybe Guatemala to do a Star Wars shot and maybe some of central america may be of interest. I still have places to see in London and it would actually be nice to travel my own country a bit more in the name of shooting locations.

11 Filming Location Trips For 2011

2011 has been quite a productive year for hunting down filming locations in the likes of The USA, Jordan, Germany, England, Belgium, Turkey, Czech Republic and Japan. Click on the links below to see more.

1. Back To The Future (Click here)

2. The Bourne Supremacy (Click here)

3. Lolo Rennt (Run Lola Run) (Click here)

4. Star Wars (Click here and here)

5. Memoirs Of A Geisha (Click here)

6. In Bruges (Click here)

7. Terminator (Click here)

8. The Last Samurai (Click here)

9. James Bond (Click herehereherehere and here)

10. The Karate Kid (Click here)

11. Indiana Jones (Click here)

Other 2011 locations for the films listed below can be found here

Los Angeles Filming Locations: Universal Studios Special

As mentioned in the prelude I did go to Universal Studios in 2002 (I also went to the one in Osaka in 2005) but I wanted to return as of course things do change. On my birthday (8/8) myself and Ethan both re-vistited the studios amid sweltering heat. We went to the lower lot first and The Mummy ride was an unexpected thrill which we immediately rode again. The Jurassic Park ride followed which saw us get a good soaking from the squirting dinosaurs and the rides culmination which saw us take a “treacherous plunge straight down an 84ft vertical drop waterfall.” The NBC Universal experience was a minor pit-stop but I was delighted to see the red mini which was used in ‘The Bourne Identity’ in 2002.

   

Having ascended back to the upper lot (via stairs for exercise) I was disappointed that the ‘Back To The Future Ride’ was no more but equally interested to go on its replacement; ‘The Simpsons Ride’ which was a thrilling virtual rollercoaster ride. As a fan of that show I was also excited to see reconstructions of Comic-Book guy’s shop and the Kwik-E-Mart.

   

After a long, long wait in burning sunshine we took the Studio Tour which lasted longer than normal as there was some kind of problem with our train so we had to wait for a replacement one to be brought to where we had halted. After that we saw sets from ‘Jaws’ (below left), ‘Psycho’ (lower left), ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ (lower right), ‘Desperate Housewives’ (below middle right), ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift’ (below middle left), ‘The Mummy’ and the huge outdoor airplane crash set built for ‘War of the Worlds’ (below right).

     

Other parts of the studio tour included a flash flood, an 8.3 earthquake, an old west town (including a saloon and sheriff station) and King Kong 360 3-D which is the world’s largest 3-D experience and having put on our special glasses was good fun and probably the best example of 3-D I have witnessed. That’s not saying too much though as I am generally not a fan of the recent rise in films being made in 3-D.

I was so tired that I couldn’t even stay awake in the Shrek 4-D ride but managed to recover in time for our final attraction which was the Terminator 2: 3-D ride. As much as I enjoyed experiencing this again it probably is a bit outdated now given the time that’s lapsed since its incarnation as well as the aforementioned rise of the 3-D format in recent years. There was just enough time for a quick photo-stop or two on the way out at the book shop from Notting Hill and the Universal Studios globe at the entrance both of which I was photographed at nine years earlier.

 

Los Angeles Filming Locations: Terminator

Arnold Schwarzenegger first appears in ‘The Terminator’ (1984) at Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park on his mission to terminate Sarah Connor. This place was also used in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’, ‘Dragnet’, ‘Earth Girls Are Easy’, ‘The House On Haunted Hill’, ‘LA Confidential’ and ‘Charlies Angels: Full Throttle’. Unlike the cyborg sent back from 2029 myself and Ethan were clothed and actually saw it as a “nice night for a walk”. It was here that Arnie’s character duffs up a trio of punks as he wants their clothes. He also rips the heart out of one of them.

 

The restaurant where Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) works is Carrows Restaurant at 815 South Fremont Avenue in Pasadena. It was ‘Big Buns’ in the film and I only just noticed this place by chance in passing as we made our way round many locations.

 

The place where John Connor is conceived is the very run-down Tiki Motel at 7301 Santa Fe Avenue, Huntington Park. This was actually our first port of call and provided many match-ups in terms of the check-in window, the dog barking as the terminator arrives and busts through room 9 and fires his gun before giving chase to Sarah and Kyle Reese. Amazingly the room where it all happened was open and I couldn’t resist poking my head in (well I did a bit more than that actually!) and seeing what was perhaps the most pivotal moment in the Terminator franchise.

           

We only did one location from ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ (1991) but it was an exciting one (well it was in the movie anyway!) and was where the very exciting chase took place with the T-1000 hot on the heels of John Connor. It’s a case of 18-wheel truck versus motorbike at the junction of Plummer and Hayvernhurst (the latter of which can be seen written on the bridge in that scene).

  

‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines’ (2003) may not be so universally loved but I’m still a fan of it and in this one we see the female terminator drive through Jim’s Burgers at 1901 E. 1st Street and shoot one of her victims at the drive-thru window. According to this site “the director added the colourful cut-outs and the atomic touches.”

     

The cemetry where the T-101 (Schwarzenegger) shows John Connor his mother’s coffin, which is full of weapons, is Rose Hills Memorial Park at 3888 Workman Mill Road in Whittier. It should be noted that the ensuing car chase when the Terminatrix arrives was filmed down in Long Beach. This place was huge and weirdly enough was full of families playing around and treating the place as if it was a park which is a bit un-nerving.

   

Not really a location but I need to include it somewhere so below is the entrance to the ‘Terminator 2: 3D’ attraction at Universal Studios which is still good though probably a bit outdated now given the growing popularity of the 3D format in the last couple of years. Schwarzenegger’s motorcycle is outside this ride which had a huge line but thankfully I got my photo taken on it nine years ago so I include that below instead.

 

Many thanks go to the following sites: thearnoldfans and onthesetofterminator

London Film Museum

I’d never even heard of the London Film Museum until one of my friends here in Tokyo took a trip there in the Summer on his visit to the UK. I decided then that the next time I was in England that I would go there so having arranged to meet my mate Richard Richard I thought I would combine the two. On an afternooon back in December we turned up at the museum which is next to the London Eye and diagonally opposite Big Ben. Richard Richard even managed to haggle the price down (usually 12 pounds) with the man selling tickets outside which was something I’d never dare to do in England but I was very grateful to save a couple of quid.

It was a huge place but I wouldn’t say it was as chock-a-block full of stuff like I expected. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Star Wars and Batman stuff I’d have been a bit disappointed. Those two franchises will get their own article in the following couple of blog entries. Apart from them highlights included being able to sit on the sofa with the Simpsons, the tardis and daleks from Dr Who (iconic things but a show I’ve never really got into), a room to make you feel like you were tiny and various costumes and framed exhibits from the likes of  Jason Bourne, Superman, Terminator,  007, Austin Powers, Indiana Jones and so on.          

Of course there were lots of other exhibits and special areas designated to ‘Charlie Chaplin’, ‘myths & legends’, ‘London on film’, ‘Zulu’ as well as special horror, war and comedy rooms.