The modern movie-musical "La La Land" has a few familiar haunts South Bay natives may recognize from their backyard.
The musical took home seven Golden Globes Sunday night, the most a film has won in the award's 74-year history. In the film, Ryan Gosling plays a struggling jazz musician with dreams of opening his own club when he meets and falls for an aspiring actress played by Emma Stone.
The film was shot all around Los Angeles and Orange County, but filmmaker Damien Chazelle chose The Lighthouse Cafe and the Hermosa Beach Pier for some of the film's most important scenes. The club, which first hosted jazz in 1949, kept its name in the film and was closed for four days for filming interior and exterior shots.
“It's gratifying ... paying homage to not only the building and what we are, but also to jazz music,” said Lighthouse general manager Steven Grehl. “I love what he (Chazelle) did with the story line. I can personally relate to that because I came here as a musician in 1992 ... doing the starving musician, rock-star thing.”
Grehl was first contacted by "La La Land" location manager Robert Foulkes to shoot at the club. When he met Chazelle, who wrote and directed the film, Grehl said he had conversation about the filmmaker's last project, “Whiplash,” the Oscar winning film about a jazz student and an abusive instructor at a music conservatory.
“He's a musician and I gravitated toward that film,” Grehl said.
Howard Rumsey brought jazz to The Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach in 1949 and through the early 1960s led the Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars. Legends like Miles Davis and Chet Baker also made their mark at The Lighthouse. With 91-year-old Gloria Cadena booking shows and carrying on the tradition, the Lighthouse continues to be a jazz hub.
"La La Land" set designers did not change much about The Lighthouse during the filming, according to Grehl. They added stained glass on the front window and the circular stained glass lighthouse behind the piano Gosling's character played.
Grehl said they would have loved to keep the light fixtures hung above the bar, but it would have cost $7,000. Photos of jazz artists hanging on the walls were replaced for fear of copyright infringement. Some of the studio's replacement photos still hang on the walls. A neon sign on the back wall will remain.
Grehl said he is lobbying Foulkes to keep the stained glass lighthouse as an another memento from the film. People are already stopping by the club to take pictures of the exterior, but he wishes they would come inside.
“I want people in here spending money. I want them in here enjoying what we are and that's an iconic piece,” said Grehl of the stained glass. “When I talked to them about it, they told me they would have to wait until the movie wrapped because they may have to go ahead and put it up somewhere and do some still shots … but the last I spoke to them, it's mine, but I haven't got it yet so I'm getting a little antsy.”
Grehl said overall the experience of being involved with the "La La Land" filming was “phenomenal.”
“It was fun being a fly on the wall,” he said.
A “La La Land” party is being planned at The Lighthouse and will take place some time after the Academy Awards.