California Dreaming… at Paramount Studios

There’s a new chapter about to open in my life and one that I’m pretty excited about. It’s the reason I haven’t been ‘Blogging’ as consistently these past few months and that’s because I’ve been investing a lot of time in several projects that mean I’ll be taking on a new role in the world of film production – behind the scenes as a writer and producer.

(But more about that later… )

So naturally, I was very happy to be heading off to Los Angeles two weeks ago for a combination of personal and work reasons. While I’ve been to LA many times over the last decade, this trip was doubly enjoyable because a pack of Melbourne buddies were there at the same time which meant we could hang out, shop and play. Last week we decided to do a very ‘touristy’ thing – take a tour of Paramount Pictures studios.

With Kate McGrath and Anna Byrne at Paramount Studios

With Kate McGrath and Anna Byrne at Paramount Studios

I was as excited as a child visiting Disneyland. The history and filmic achievements of Paramount are epic, so with my absolute passion for film, it was akin to visiting a holy temple. I knew it would be fun, but in fact, I was blown away by the gorgeousness of it all. An experienced friend advised us to take the 2-hour tour, as opposed to the much more expensive four and a half hour version, and he was right – it was just the right amount of time to soak up the magic and history.

Touching the gates for good luck...

Touching the gates for good luck…


On arrival, we were greeted by our tour guide, Katy, who directed us to a buggy and we set off. First, through the majestic Paramount gates which we are touched for good luck – a Paramount tradition. (We’re all confident we are now headed for epic success!)


The famous Paramount Theatre

The famous Paramount Theatre

To list all of Paramount’s famous movies would take weeks, but just a handful include the likes of Rear Window, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Psycho, Love Story, The Great Gatsby (1972), Terms of Endearment, American Gigolo, the Godfather movies, Pretty in Pink, all the Star Trek movies and Titanic.



The foyer of Paramount's Theatre

The foyer of Paramount’s Theatre

Most of the them probably had a screening at Paramount’s famous on-site theatre, where we stopped and sat inside to hear a very entertaining history of the studio from Katy. Even the foyer of the theatre is stunning and is often used in movies where a bit of stage dressing can turn it into a hotel lobby.


A buggy ride took us everywhere bar New York

A buggy ride took us everywhere bar New York


Driving around in our buggy, we packed in a full tour – the only section we couldn’t see was the New York area, which was locked off while a TV commercial was being filmed. I also liked the fact that our tour was quite intimate. The three of us and another family meant there were only seven people demanding Katy’s attention.



The door to what was once Katherine Hepburn's dressing-room...

The door to what was once Katharine Hepburn’s dressing room…



We stopped at many famous doors along the way. And while it was disappointing not to actually venture inside, I still appreciated seeing them and learning the history. Here’s the door to what WAS Katharine Hepburn’s dressing room. She’d apparently ride to work on her bicycle, taking an alternative entrance to the studios to avoid the paparazzi.



The door Lucille Ball had concreted...

The door Lucille Ball had concreted…



And here’s a door we couldn’t have walked through even if we’d tried… It was cemented up after Lucille Ball discovered her husband Desi Arnaz’s philandering ways.

Katy gives us the low-down on the backsteps used for the beach house scene in Top Gun

Katy gives us the low-down on the back steps used for the beach house scene in Top Gun






Here are some steps you might recognise. Remember Top Gun? These were used for the scene where Tom Cruise (Maverick) sits on the back patio of Kelly McGillis’ (Charlie’s) beach house while they talk and drink wine.



Sitting on Forrest Gump's park bench

Sitting on Forrest Gump’s park bench

And I just had to have a photo, sitting on the very park bench where Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) delivered his famous line, ‘Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.’




It was incredible to see the car park which can be turned into an ocean, filled with water from the massive tank above – it takes nearly a whole day – with projected images of beaches or other locations coming to life on the huge screen to the left. Of course, the cars have to park elsewhere on those days… The magic of cinema indeed.

The carpark that can be transformed into an ocean...

The car park that can be transformed into an ocean…

For those who love a good ghost story, you’ll feel a tingle passing the allegedly haunted STAGE NINETEEN. Child actor Heather O’Rourke, who died from cardiac arrest at the age of 12, is rumoured to haunt the studio as her filming days were apparently the happiest of her tragically short life. Heather was discovered by Steven Spielberg at the age of five and went on to star in the 1982 horror movie, Poltergeist, as well its two sequels.

What's being filmed at Paramount

What’s being filmed at Paramount


Nowadays, there’s more TV shows than movies being filmed at Paramount. Here’s a look at what’s being filmed on site right now.

We stopped briefly at Dr Phil’s door and peeked inside the studio…

The door to Dr Phil's studio

The door to Dr Phil’s studio









All Glee props and staging are kept under wraps

All Glee props and staging are kept under wraps

And while I’m not a Glee viewer, I’d happily have shown you the set. Except that it’s one show that keeps everything strictly under wraps. Even the props that are left outdoors are covered in black plastic so passers-by can’t guess from the sets, what might be coming up in the story-lines. Sorry…


Ah yes, a memorable day indeed and one I would highly recommend to anyone visiting LA.

Paramount Pictures is legendary – who could resist it’s magic? Even the tour tickets are beautiful, featuring the shot below. And this is how I will end my story because who could say it better than Cecil B DeMille?

Cecil B DeMille's famous quote

Cecil B DeMille’s famous quote