Downtown L.A. architecture stars in ‘(500) Days of Summer’

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When it comes to subbing for urban street scenes, downtown Los Angeles is a reliable standby for filmmakers. The anonymous feel of many of the neighborhood streets means it can stand in for practically any American city. As far as ready-made movie sets go, it’s a versatile location that has long provided the backdrop to numerous commercials, TV shows and feature films.

Once in a while, however, downtown L.A. gets to play itself, to paraphrase historian Thom Andersen. Earlier this year, ‘The Soloist’ made ample use of Pershing Square, Disney Hall and Skid Row to tell the story of Nathaniel Ayers, a mentally ill former musical prodigy. Now the indie romance ‘(500) Days of Summer,’ which opens July 17, is again putting some of the neighborhood’s most famous buildings in the spotlight.

'(500) Days of Summer’ stars hipster axiom Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an aspiring architect who falls for a romantically challenged co-worker, played by Zooey Deschanel. As our friends over at Curbed LA note, the film was initially set in San Francisco, but the location was changed after Gordon-Levitt and director Marc Webb took a walking tour of downtown L.A. The script was then rewritten to incorporate the buildings they saw -- including the Bradbury Building (most famous for ‘Blade Runner’); the Music Center (which includes the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion); and the towers of California Plaza.

‘Downtown L.A. just seemed like a perfect fit in a way. So few people pay it any attention, and there’s a ton of history and stuff that’s pretty beautiful and fascinating,’ co-writer Scott Neustadter told Curbed LA.


‘We were very conscious not to do the ‘Entourage’ L.A. but to show it in a way other movies and TV shows rarely do.’

The teaser trailer (see above) features snippets of the movie’s downtown L.A. locales. In perhaps an ironic nod, there’s also a scene of the stars taking a romp through IKEA. From the architecturally sublime to the big-box generic.

-- David Ng