Current cinema hit and opening film of this year's Berlinale Hail, Caesar! provides us with an exclusive peek behind the scenes of the world's most famous dream factory. Here are four more recent inside scoops live from Hollywood…
1. Hail, Caesar! (2016)
In 1951, we follow Hollywood's "fixer" Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) around a hectic day at the studio as he tries to keep the scandals of his stars under wraps by all means. We learn about a divorced Hollywood starlet (Scarlett Johansson) who is expecting a child from a married director (and yes, in the 1950s that was a really big scandal) or an extremely talented western star (Alden Ehrenreich) who is is a lot less talented at playing the romcom hero.
The worst scandal of all is, however, that the studio's show horse (George Clooney) is kidnapped by a communist association calling themselves "The Future". And ladies, Channing Tatum is in there as well of course, doing his dance moves as a happy sailor (who hides a dark secret)…
My verdict: Filmed in and around Los Angeles and stuffed with many of your favourite Hollywood stars, this comedy definitely gives a good glimpse into the less glamorous background scenes in Hollywood!
2. Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
In 1961, the financially struggling author of Mary Poppins, Pamela "P. L." Travers, reluctantly travels from her home in London to Los Angeles in order to discuss the film adaption of Mary Poppins with Walt Disney. Initially, Travers (Emma Thompson) is not at all happy and fears that Poppins is made into one of those "silly Disney cartoons".
But then, Disney (Tom Hanks) and the rest of the team realize why she is so hesitant: In flashbacks, we learn about Travers' childhood in Allora, Queensland, Australia, which was a very difficult one due to her loving, but alcoholic father. The character of George Banks, the distant father of the children in Mary Poppins' charge, is loosly based on Travers' real-life father…
My verdict: You can learn more about Walt Disney as a man, which I found really fascinating! Plus, there is very dry British humour and the gorgeous Australian outback!
3. Hitchcock (2012)
Another "film about a film" is the biographical drama Hitchcock. Centered around the making of horror movie Psycho, the story follows the filmmaker himself (Anthony Hopkins), the relationship to his wife (Helen Mirren) and his starlets of the day (Scarlett Johansson yet again taking over the part of an Hollywood actress, this time Psycho protagonist Janet Leigh).
Psycho was controversial at first, but later on became one of the most acclaimed works in the director's career. The story about the mentally unstable motel owner and mamma's boy who becomes a murderer, is continuing to inspire art and film up until today. A good example is current TV series Bates Motel, which premiered in 2013. Film fans in L.A. can also visit the original house and motel while on a tour through the movie theme park Universal Studios Hollywood.
My verdict: A little bit scary, but mostly funny! Plus, another great chance to learn more about Hitchcock – the man behind all those film classics!
4. Maps to the Stars (2014)
Ironically titled Maps to the Stars provides a shocking look at the dark side of Hollywood and what is hidden behind the closed doors of the movies stars: There is, for example, Havanna (Julianne Moore), who is an established Hollywood actress, but also incredibly self-centered and jealous at other people's success.
Then there is child star Benjie, 13, who just checked out of rehab and his older sister Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) who has recently been released from a sanatorium where she was treated for criminal pyromania. Not knowing about her past, Havanna now employs named Agatha as her new assistant. And the drama unfolds…
My verdict: Don't expect any kind of Hollywood glitter, this film is extremely dark! The brilliant cast will leave you with a bad gut feeling, but watching it once will not cause any long-lasting damage!
5. The Artist (2011)
I was really surprised when I first saw this film back in 2011 and noticed that even in our digital day and age, a black and white silent movie can be so entertaining! There is not one line spoken throughout this French production about the fictional film stars George Valentin and Peppy Miller in 1927, yet the music and acting still manages to get all important feelings across.
The award shows that followed proved me right: In 2012, The Artist was nominated for ten Oscars and won five, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for protagonist Jean Dujardin, making him the first French actor ever to win for an Academy Award for Best Actor!
My verdict: Hollywood's Golden Silent Era shines in new (black and white) light! You will not be disappointed by the lack of speaking, but enchanted by the music and the acting!
Speaking of Hollywood, what are your favorite movies about the dream factory? Add them in the comments!
Travel Tip: If you find yourself in Hollywood one day, this is what you should do and see!