The Sierra Bonita Apartments from “Mulholland Dr.”Oct 28th, 2011 | By Lindsay | Category: Movie Locations
Another Haunted-Hollywood-type location that I found thanks to fellow stalker/David Lynch aficionado Brad, from the Brad D Studios website, was the fictionally-named “Sierra Bonita” apartment complex – the fairy-tale-style property that was featured in one of the more intense and terrifying scenes from the surrealist director’s incredibly odd 2001 thriller Mulholland Dr. Brad had posted a brief write-up of the unique Silverlake-area site just last week and, because I had stalked and blogged about Le Borghese, the other apartment building featured in the flick, way back in February of 2009, I immediately added the place to my “To-Stalk” list and dragged the Grim Cheaper out there to see it just a few days later.
The complex, which consists of eight small, wood-shingled bungalows built around a central courtyard, was originally designed by Ben Sherwood in 1931. Ironically enough, as you can see above, in real life there is nothing whatsoever spooky or macabre about the location. On the contrary, the bungalow court is actually quite charming and idyllic in person and seems far more Disney-esque than “Lynchian”, as David Lynch’s movies have come to be described.
Legend has it, in fact, that the bungalows were once occupied by Walt Disney Studios animators and that the storybook-like architecture served as the inspiration for the Seven Dwarf’s cottage in the very first full-length animated feature film, 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. According to the “Ask Chris” column which appeared in the December 2006 issue of Los Angeles Magazine, Walt Disney Archive founder Dave Smith confirmed that director Hamilton Luske and animators Dick Lundy, Lee Morehouse, and Fred Moore all did occupy the complex once upon a time, which makes sense being that the original Walt Disney Studios was located a stone’s throw away on Hyperion Boulevard, where Gelson’s Market now stands. Because the apartments do bear a strong resemblance to the Seven Dwarf’s cottage, Chris suggests that the animators “might have taken their home to work with them”. Thanks to the Snow White lore, the bungalows have come to be known as the “Snow White Cottages” or the “Disney Cottages”, although they have no official name.
The fact that David Lynch even thought to transform such a picturesque spot into a place so sinister and foreboding – solely using camera angles, a few set pieces, and some carefully timed bars of music, mind you – speaks volumes about the director’s massive creative genius. He also somehow managed to make the property look huge on film, when, in reality, it is incredibly small and sits on a plot of land that measures less than two-tenths of an acre.
In Mulholland Dr., the Sierra Bonita Apartments are where budding actress Betty Elms (aka Naomi Watts) and her amnesiac new friend Rita (aka Laura Harring) search for a mysterious stranger named Diane Selwyn. When Betty and Rita first arrive at Sierra Bonita, their taxi drives past the front of the complex, down a side alley located just north of the complex, and then drops them off in the rear of the property where the carports are located.
The carport area is pictured above and, as you can see, even it is picturesque! I can honestly say that was the first time in history I have ever seen a cute carport!
Betty and Rita then walk through the Disney-esque tower located at the back of the complex. A fake wall and apartment directory were set up in that area for the filming, which blocked the rest of the property from view.
That tower is pictured above.
According to the directory, Diane Selwyn lives in Apartment Number 12 in the complex’s West Courtyard. In reality, though, the property only has one courtyard.
Betty and Rita then make their way along meandering pathways and through maze-like foliage to Apartment 12. It was here that David Lynch employed tricky camera work and the magic of Hollywood to make the complex appear to be much larger than it actually is. To borrow a phrase from the British, I was absolutely gobsmacked when I arrived at the property and saw how miniscule it was.
Lynch also had a fake wall and gate installed at the front of the property, along Griffith Park Boulevard, which you can see in the background of the above screen capture.
The fake gate was built behind the complex’s real life gate, which can also be seen in the movie.
When Betty knocks on the door to Apartment 12, she is told that Diane Selwyn has recently moved into Apartment 17.
The bungalow used as Apartment 12 is actually numbered 2912 1/2 in real life and is the complex’s northwestern-most unit. It is located right on Griffith Park Boulevard and can be easily viewed from the street.
When Betty and Rita arrive at Apartment 17, they discover that no one is home and wind up breaking into the unit through a side window.
In real life, Apartment 17 is the bungalow numbered 2910 and it is located at the northeastern-most edge of the complex.
The window that Betty breaks into is pictured above.
I am fairly certain that the interior that was shown in the movie was just a set as the spacing of the windows in the kitchen area does not match up to the spacing of the windows on the exterior of the actual bungalow. You can check out some photographs of one of the actual apartment interiors on fave website CurbedLA here.
In the Season 2 episode of My Name Is Earl titled “Sticks & Stones”, the “Snow White Cottages” were used extensively as “Shady Grove”, where Maggie Lester, aka The Bearded Lady (aka Judy Greer), and her carnival friends lived.
Maggie lived in the bungalow numbered 2906 1/2 in the episode.
That bungalow is pictured above.
I am fairly certain that the real life interior of the unit was also used in the filming. How incredibly cute is Maggie’s place, by the way?!?! Oh, what I wouldn’t give to live there!
On a Mulholland Dr. side-note – Justin Theroux, my girl Jen Aniston’s current boyfriend, played the lead role of director Adam Kesher in the film.
Big THANK YOU to fellow stalker Brad, from the Brad D Studios website, for finding this location!
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The “Sierra Bonita Apartments” from Mulholland Dr. are located at 2900 Griffith Park Boulevard in Silverlake. The units which were used in Mulholland Dr. are denoted with pink arrows in the above aerial view – Apartment #12 is actually the bungalow numbered 2912 1/2 and Apartment #17 is the bungalow numbered 2910. Maggie’s apartment from My Name Is Earl is denoted with a blue arrow in the above aerial view and is numbered 2906 1/2 in real life.