Halima Ali reveals the locations where four of the films nominated in this year’s Oscars were filmed and set
The 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which stretches from Mexico to Canada, through California, Oregon, and Washington, is so much more than just a pretty backdrop for the Reese Witherspoon film. It’s the driving force in the story, in which real-life protagonist Cheryl Strayed attempts to overcome physical and mental obstacles to hike more than a thousand miles. The PCT has seen a surge of interest after the release of the movie, with website traffic increasing by 300 per cent, while requests for long-distance walk permits have also grown. howwilditwas.com
How to do it: It’s easy to dip in and dip out of the PCT — you can go for a few hours, a day or a longer walk with overnight stays. The Pacific Crest Trail Association can recommend many popular, accessible stretches of the route, including around Mount Baden-Powell near Los Angeles; Mount Rainier; and Goat Rocks near Seattle. Or if you have the hunger for something epic, the best time of year for higher elevations and more northern parts of the trail is June to September. For the southern areas in California, fall and spring are preferable. Those who aim to complete the entire trek should begin in May in order to finish by early autumn. pcta.org
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson’s film is not based on any one particular hotel — but it was inspired by several, including The Savoy in London, Hotel Adlon in Berlin and the Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, which was also a location for Bond movie Casino Royale. The Grand Budapest’s interior — which we see on screen — is, in fact, an unused department store in Görlitz, 60 miles east of Dresden on the German-Polish border. The abandoned Art Nouveau Görlitzer Warenhaus was built in 1913 and discovered by Anderson on a scouting trip. The columns, staircases and chandelier were already part of the store, while the remainder of the set was purpose-built. grandbudapesthotel.com
How to do it: A stay in the Grandhotel Pupp costs from £113 per night per single room — and it’s well worth it for the chance to see one of the Czech Republic’s most beautiful historic towns. Alternatively, make your way to Görlitz — the Görlitzer Warenhaus store has been bought by an investor inspired by the film and is currently undergoing renovations, but the town has also served as a location for films such as Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, The Book Thief, The Monuments Men, Around the World in 80 Days and The Reader.
The Imitation Game
This historical thriller is based on the biography of Alan Turing — played by Benedict Cumberbatch — the British cryptanalyst who helped crack the Enigma code during the Second World War. Filming took place in a variety of locations around the UK including Dorset, King’s Cross station in London and the disused Aldwych Underground station in the Strand. However, the main location was Bletchley Park, a Victorian mansion in Buckinghamshire, which served as the central site of the United Kingdom’s Government Code and Cypher School during the Second World War. Known as Station X, it was here that Turing had a hand in the invention of the world’s first programmable computer, a giant machine called Colossus that enabled him to crack codes quickly by process of elimination. As the war progressed, Bletchley grew to become a hidden city of 10,000 people working in hastily constructed huts.
How to do it: Bletchley Park can be visited on a day trip from London, and The Imitation Game exhibition about the making of the movie is running until 1 November, in the very room where the bar scenes were filmed. Taking visitors behind the scenes, exhibits include costumes worn by stars, Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, and a reproduction of the bar and a German Enigma machine, like the one used in the film. Also on display are the secret documents and intercepts, a replica of the prototype Bombe machine that Turing names Christopher, a copy of the famous crossword puzzle published in The Telegraph and many more behind-the-scenes gems.
Selma is a city located high on the banks of the Alabama River in Dallas County, Alabama. It’s best known for the three Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965, which are depicted in the Oscar-nominated production. Led by Martin Luther King Jr, the 54-mile walk along the highway from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery showed the desire of black American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression. The marches are credited with prompting the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the pioneering victories of the civil rights movement.
How to do it:
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic marches, while in April, it will be the 150th anniversary of the end of the civil war, so the city is sure to be celebrating. One of the most powerful scenes in the film shows the marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge — the exact location of the Bloody Sunday conflict in 1965. The overpass became a national landmark in 2013. Alternatively, for those interested in going deeper, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated — a five-hour drive north of Selma in Memphis, Tennessee — tells of the history behind the movement.
This feature was published on CountryByCountry.com