The opening scene of the movie “The Descendants” depicts a woman riding in a speeding boat just off the shores of famous Waikiki Beach here. The movie’s penultimate scene is also filmed near the same spot. It’s about a half mile offshore (extreme right of photo above), with the Honolulu skyline and the iconic Diamond Head volcano in the background.
(I wonder if the movie’s open, and its close, were filmed near the same place, on the same day? It’s possible. But the filmmakers may not have been in that much of a hurry to wrap shooting; in fact, they would remain in Hawaii – during the spring of 2010 – for 11 weeks! But I digress…)
The next scenes after Waikiki, at the movie’s start, and also the scenes just prior to the Waikiki denouement, were shot at Honolulu’s Queen’s Medical Center. (Shot the same day too? Just wondering.) Most locals call it Queen’s Hospital – it is the largest private hospital in the Hawaiian Islands. (No, this is not the hospital that President Barack Obama was born in; that’s Kapiolani Medical Center, just down the road.) Some of the scenes looking out of the hospital windows are of the park-like setting around the Hawaii State Art Museum, the state library and of Iolani Palace.
It seems the office location for Matt King (George Clooney) was shot in the same area, which is sometimes referred to as old downtown (just behind the marina in the shot above).
Where was the house that Mr. Clooney supposedly lived in? On a small street in the Nuuanu neighborhood, which is just up the Pali Highway north of downtown.
(Residents have asked not to divulge the exact address, to discourage traffic and trespassers in the neighborhood’s cozy confines; besides, Mr. Clooney is gone, so what would be the point?)
Several scenes were supposed to be filmed at the Outrigger Canoe Club near Diamond Head – a setting mentioned in the novel; but the club wouldn’t allow it. The Elks Club next door was used for the filming instead. (Kaui Hart Hemmings, the novelist who wrote the book upon which the movie is based, appears in one of the movie’s party scenes there, along with many of her family members; she also plays Matt King’s secretary.)
Not that anyone cares now, but the cast and crew stayed at Honolulu’s Kahala Hotel & Resort during filming on Oahu. That was close to the neighborhood where they were driving (in the movie), when they happened to spot a certain real estate sign.
From Honolulu, the movie made a quick hop to the Big Island. The dark roadway with the white rocks spelling people’s names? That’s Queen Kaahumanu Highway (State Road 19, part of the Hawaii Belt Road) through the lava fields, north of the Kailua-Kona airport. It’s a Big Island tradition to spell out things, and create lapidary graffiti, using white coral rocks along the roadway. It’s a local tradition, best left to the locals to understand (and explain!).
I suspect only a second unit film crew went to the Big Island. There was no reason for the stars to go there. The private school shown in the movie was actually a property on Oahu.
The movie’s scenic factor was ratcheted up a few clicks when everyone flew to the island of Kauai.
The helicopter shots of those lush green mountains? Along Kauai’s fabulous, unspoiled NaPali coast, which is preserved as a 6,175-acre state park. Want to visit? You can actually hike the coast on the Kalalau Trail, which is about 11 miles long. It is not accessible by automobile.
If it seems to you that, when you saw this coast, you had a sense of deja vu, you are probably right. It has been used in dozens of movies over the last 60 years – starting with jewels such as “South Pacific” and continuing down through the years to “Jurassic Park”. There may even have been an Elvis Presley sighting or two around here. If you are interested, a movie location tour is offered by a local entrepreneur; the tour visits locations for at least 20 different movies filmed at various locations on Kauai.
What about that beach Mr. Clooney jogs along? Well, it is adjacent to the St. Regis Princeville Resort (top left) on Hanalei Bay. The resort, said to be one of the most glorious in the world, was prominently featured in a couple of scenes; it’s the huge complex built into a cliff at the east end of Hanalei Bay. No less than five separate locations in the movie were staged along Hanalei’s sparkling turquoise bay. (Extra points given for knowing the final scene of “Body Heat” (1981) was filmed on the beach near here.)
The shores of Hanalei Bay were where the cottage was located, where the movie’s big scene of confrontation was staged. Tours are offered in this area of “The Descendants” locations; other scenes were shot at the Tahiti Nui saloon/restaurant nearby and the shave ice shack.
Finally, wonder where that fabulous piece of property, that Mr. Clooney’s character is so conflicted about in the movie, actually is? Eureka! Check out a separate column I’ve written, in which I set to find that chunk of Shangri-La!
December 4, 2011