Your standard hotel, or a movie set? (Photo: Hilton Woodcliff Lake)
Have you ever wondered what’s going on in the other rooms at your hotel? What about the other floors? You probably assume the other guests are people just like you, flipping through free cable shows and ordering room service.
But the truth is, your hotel has more going on than you think — especially if you’re staying at a Hilton.
The hotel chain has locations in 94 countries, and its main focus has always been hospitality. But like so many actors and actresses, Hilton can’t resist the occasional call from Hollywood.
Case in point: The Hilton Hotel in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., is the star of the recently released movie Danny Collins. Well, actually, Al Pacino is the star who plays an aging rocker who succumbed to fame and lost his connection to songwriting. After receiving an inspiring letter from John Lennon, Collins goes on a journey of rediscovery, moves into the Hilton Woodcliff and attempts to reconnect with his adult son.
Annette Bening, left, plays the Hilton hotel manager as Danny Collins (Al Pacino) checks in. (Photo: Bleeker Street Films)
So while Hilton isn’t the headliner, it is certainly a supporting character — 70 percent of the movie was filmed in the hotel.
At first glance, it might appear as if this movie could have been filmed at any hotel, but selecting a Hilton was no accident. “Hilton has a long history of partnerships with the entertainment industry,” said Rob Palleschi, global head, full service brands at Hilton Worldwide. “In fact, John Lennon wrote the lyrics to ‘Imagine’ at Hilton New York Midtown.”
Over the past six decades, many beloved movies have been filmed within the walls of Hilton hotels. The Hilton Hawaiian Village has been used in several high-profile films, including the Elvis classic Blue Hawaii, and Godzilla, in which a giant reptile destroyed the iconic hotel.
George Clooney dons a Hilton robe in “Up in the Air.” (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
For the movie Up in the Air starring George Clooney, several Hilton properties in St. Louis were used, and even provided a subtitle shout-out to the hotel chain. “You can’t beat seeing George Clooney in a Hilton robe,” jokes Palleschi.
Some other notable movies filmed inside Hilton hotels include Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Hilton Chicago), The Fugitive (Hilton Chicago), Spider-Man 3 (Hilton New York), Scarface (Fontainebleau Hilton Resort in Miami), and The Miracle on 34th Street (Palmer House Hilton in Chicago).
In today’s tech-savvy culture, where many scenes can be shot on green screen, why do movie studios still shoot in a hotel instead of on a Hollywood set?
“We have iconic hotels in amazing locations, so it’s a natural place to shoot a movie,” said Palleschi. “From restaurants and bar to business centers, so much life happens in a hotel.”
The movie’s director, Dan Fogelman, and Annette Bening. (Photo: Bleeker Street Films)
Dealing with guests and a movie in production is no easy task, but it can be accomplished — with a lot of planning. While Danny Collins was shooting, the Hilton Woodcliff Lake was able to block off an entire floor of the hotel, or certain rooms, so guests wouldn’t be affected. At times, they even blocked off part of the lobby and redirected guests to another part of the building. The biggest interruption came when production bought out the hotel for three days to shoot some important scenes.
Still, Hilton says, it’s worth it.
“We want to be a great citizen in our community,” said Palleschi. “When a movie wants to film at one of our properties, it’s a testament to everything we’ve done.”