The “Four Christmases” ChurchDec 18th, 2013 | By Lindsay | Category: Movie Locations
Due to the fact that Christmas movies filmed in the L.A. area are few and far between, I typically only compile about five holiday-themed locales to blog about each year. (If I could swing an entire month of Christmas posts, believe me, I would.) This year was no different and because there are only five blogging days left until Christmas, you know what that means – my Yuletide posts start today! Yay! So here goes. Last January, while on the hunt for locations from Four Christmases, I managed to track down New Life Community Church, the Hawthorne parish that masqueraded as the United Church of Faith and Worship, Piedmont Branch, in the 2008 comedy. So I dragged the Grim Cheaper right on over to stalk it a couple of weeks ago, after first stopping by Marilyn Monroe’s childhood home (which I blogged about here).
While most of the interior spaces that appeared in Four Christmases were studio-built sets, I knew from the movie’s production notes that an actual religious institution in Hawthorne was used for the filming of the church scene. Because only the inside of it was shown, though, I had a tough time tracking it down. That is, until I came across production designer Shepherd Frankel’s FABULOUS website last year, on which were posted exterior photographs of the ultra-modern-looking parish where filming took place. From there I just did a Google search for modern places of worship in Hawthorne and was fairly quickly led to images of New Life Community Church.
New Life Community Church pops up towards the middle of Four Christmases (in the second Christmas vignette), in the scene in which Marilyn (Mary Steenburgen) takes her daughter Kate (Reese Witherspoon) and Kate’s boyfriend, Brad (Vince Vaughn), to a bit of an unconventional mass to meet her new boyfriend, Pastor Phil (Dwight Yoakam). While there – and despite Kate’s massive stage fright – Kate and Brad get roped into portraying Mary and Joseph in a reenactment of the Nativity of Jesus. According to the production notes, the church’s hi-tech style was not the original design concept. Director Seth Gordon states, “Pastor Phil was originally meant to play guitar and deliver a brief sermon, but Dwight brought such stature and swagger to it, with his arms raised and a booming voice that played to the furthest pews.” From there, the design scheme of the church was changed to include a large stage, huge video screen backdrops, colored lights, smoke, and blasting music. Frankel says, “The church was an environment that morphed considerably from its earliest conception. Pastor Phil’s sermon was originally written as something with a dilapidated smoke machine on a bare stage, but once Dwight got involved, it turned into a real rock n’ roll event with projection screens and lighting cues and neon illuminating the nativity. We did keep the smoke, though, and made it a key visual element to the set.”
Sadly, New Life Community Church was not open when we showed up to stalk it, so I was not able to get any interior photographs of the place. But you can see some on the church’s official Facebook page here.
Despite the fact that the church’s architecture is unusual to say the least, I could not find any information whatsoever about its construction or history online. The only thing I was able to discern – thanks to the Historic Aerials website – was that the structure was built sometime after 2005.
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Until next time, Happy Stalking!