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The Barclay Hotel from “As Good As It Gets”

Mar 17th, 2011 | By | Category: Movie Locations

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This past weekend, the Grim Cheaper and I re-watched the movie As Good As It Gets, which I had not seen since it first came out in theatres almost 15 years ago, and I am ashamed to admit that I had somehow completely forgotten what a great flick it was!  While watching, I, of course, became a bit obsessed with tracking down some of the Southern California locations featured in it and just about had a heart attack when I read on IMDB’s As Good As It Gets filming locations page that the interior of the Barclay Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles had stood in for the movie’s fictional Café 24 Heures, where Carol Connelly (aka Helen Hunt) worked and where Melvin Udall (aka Jack Nicholson) dined each morning.  So I dragged the GC right on out to stalk the place this past Sunday afternoon.  And, as it turns out, this location proved to be one VERY LUCKY find as it has been used in countless productions over the years.

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First built in 1896 and commissioned by L.A. businessman Isaac Newton Van Nuys, the Barclay Hotel was originally known as the Van Nuys Hotel    The Beaux-Arts-style building was designed by the architecture firm Morgan + Walls and, with its sprawling lobby, detailed stained glass windows, and phone service in each room, was considered one of the finest hotels of its day.  In 1929, the property’s name was changed to the Barclay Hotel and there is supposedly a sign that is still visible on one of the building’s exterior walls which reads “Van Nuys Hotel, Rooms $1 and Up”, which would have been so incredibly cool to see, but, sadly, I could not find it anywhere.  The Barclay has the distinction of being known as Downtown L.A.’s oldest continuously operating hotel and is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.  It currently serves as a residential hotel which offers affordable housing to its residents, many of whom have lived there for years. 

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The GC and I were lucky enough to speak with the Barclay’s manager as well as one of the hotel’s longtime residents while we were stalking the place, both of whom could NOT have been nicer!  They filled us in on all of the filming that has taken place on the premises over the years and also allowed me to take all of the photographs of the interior that I wanted.   Yay!  The resident that we spoke with was literally like a walking encyclopedia of the hotel’s vast filming history and in some instances was able to tell me not only when filming of certain productions had taken place, but how long the crew was onsite, AND he also knew the names of particular episodes of shows that had filmed on the premises and, in some cases, the exact dates on which those episodes had aired!  Speaking with him was like . . . well, it was like speaking with myself, actually.  Winking smile

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The Barclay Hotel’s actual, working lobby was transformed into the supposed Manhattan-area Café 24 Heures for the filming of As Good As It Gets

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According to the hotel manager, producers not only brought in several booths for the filming;

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but they also built a fake waitress station;

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and swapped out the lobby’s front windows with French doors, which were then swapped back after filming had wrapped.

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The hotel’s real life check-in desk, which is now caged, was used as the Café’s bar in the movie.

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The entire opening scene of the 1998 disaster movie Armageddon takes place in front of the Barclay Hotel and the neighboring Farmers & Merchants National Bank, which were both made to look like they were located in New York City for the filming.

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In 2002’s Catch Me If You Can, the Barclay was the apartment building/residential hotel from which a young Frank Abagnale Jr. (aka Leonardo DiCaprio) was evicted after having written a series of bad checks to the landlord.

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Leo returned to the Barclay for the filming of last year’s Inception, in which the hotel was featured twice.  It first showed up towards the very beginning of the movie in the scene in which Cobb (aka Leonardo DiCaprio) is dunked into a bathtub.  According to the manager, that scene was filmed in one of the Barclay’s second floor hotel rooms.

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The Barclay’s lobby was later used as the African casino where Cobb met up with Eames (aka Tom Hardy).  The hotel’s check-in desk is where Eames cashed in his casino chips in the scene.

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The Barclay also stood in for the Columbian hotel where John Smith (aka Brad Pitt) met Jane Smith (aka Angelina Jolie) at the very beginning of 2005’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

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A fake bar was set up in the Barclay’s lobby for the filming of that scene.

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In 2009’s 500 Days of Summer, the Barclay’s lobby was transformed into the coffee shop where Tom (aka Joseph Gordon-Levitt) regularly hung out with his friends McKenzie (aka Geoffrey Arend) and Paul (aka Matthew Gray Gubler).

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The Barclay’s former coffee shop area, which is located on the southeast corner of West 4th and South Main Streets, is not currently a working restaurant, but was kept intact in order to be used solely for filming, which I think is so incredibly cool!  Unfortunately, that area is closed to the public so I could only take photographs of it through its front windows.

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The former coffee shop was featured in the Season 5 episode of The Closer titled “Tapped Out”, in the scene in which Lieutenants Flynn (aka Anthony John Denison) and Provenza (aka G.W. Bailey) are shown eating breakfast and discussing Provenza’s new girlfriend all the while ignoring a crime taking place directly outside.

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There is another vacant room located on the eastern side of the hotel that is also often used for filming.

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That room was recently dressed to look like a New York bakery in the Season 7 episode of CSI: New York titled “To What End”.

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The exterior of the Barclay also appeared a few times throughout that episode. 

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Most amazing of all, though – to me at least – is the fact that the Barclay appeared in the pilot episode of the television series Starsky & Hutch way back in 1975, looking almost exactly the same as it does today.  As I mentioned above, the check-in desk has since been caged in, but other than that minor detail, the Barclay has remained unchanged in the more than 36 years since filming took place.  Love it, love it, love it!

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Ironically enough, the Starsky and Hutch movie, which premiered in 2004, was also filmed at the Barclay.  The flick’s opening scene took place on the hotel’s roof.

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: The Barclay Hotel, aka Café 24 Heures from As Good As It Gets, is located at 103 West 4th Street in Downtown Los Angeles.

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11 comments

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  1. Erik says:

    It also doubled as the Ovington Arms in The Glimmer Man (1996)

  2. sindee boyd says:

    Love your site.

  3. Santa.Barbarian says:

    The Barclay exterior has such a presence. I was just watching an old The Rockford Files episode from the 1970s on Hulu. (“Black Light, Dirty Money”, something like that.)
    Jim Rockford bursts out of an office building, being chased by mob guys, running right out into the street.
    There, clearly behind him across the street, is the facade of the Barclay Hotel looking quite grand from 40 years ago.

    Great site! Keep up the good (non) stalking.

  4. Anne says:

    Love your blog! Stumbled upon it when looking up the awesome building from Castle’s s03e12 – the Barclay Hotel is a historic magic shop in that episode:) All the information and photo’s you are providing on your blog, so cool. I’m going to check out the rest of it!

  5. Dan Storm says:

    Lots of movies for this one. I liked reading this entry. Cool old hotel too.

    When I get a chance I’m going to promote this blog on my website. This truly is the best sites on the web for movie locations, especially unusual ones, and it needs to be read by more people. You do a great job!

  6. Lisa says:

    The Baltimore restaurant where Jack and Helen ate is actually in Long Beach. I’ve stalked that before. Also, the pier that they walked on was the Seal Beach Pier.

  7. Lavonna says:

    Great post! As soon as I started reading I thought isn’t that the hotel (you told me about) from The Closer. Tapped Out is one of my FAVORITE episodes! Love the movie As Good As It Gets…not a fan of Mr & Mrs Smith.


Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. […] The 165-room structure began its life as the high-end Van Nuys Hotel, designed by architects Morgan and Walls, and the first in LA to provide electricity and telephone service to every room, the LA Conservancy says. The interior still holds plasterwork, columns, decorative ceilings, and stained glass that hints at the structure’s glamorous past. Perhaps for those features and others, the hotel has steadily attracted location scouts, who’ve put the Barclay Hotel in films like Inception, Armageddon, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, (500) Days of Summer, and As Good As It Gets, according to I Am Not A Stalker. […]

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