The scene that opens the 2016 movie “La La Land” features an unforgettable song and dance number, “Another Day of Sun”, that seems to take place on a freeway in Los Angeles.
Was that a real L.A. freeway? Pretty, much, yes.
You can see cars actually driving past on the lanes surrounding the production. Was that also real? Yes, those were real commuters on their way to work, play, or wherever all those people are constantly going on L.A. freeways.
Where was this filmed?
It was a stretch of the car pool lane flyover on the California 110, or Harbor Freeway, at the junction of Interstate 105. This overpass, located technically in South L.A., offers a great vantage point for viewing downtown Los Angeles.
The piece of roadway features the two carpool lanes exiting the southbound 110 and heading toward the westbound 105 (the lanes the car is traveling in, in the picture above), and the two-lane carpool exit from the eastbound 105, heading toward the northbound 110; this section blends in with other northbound car pool lanes on the 110.
It’s actually a pretty ingenious spot to stage the number because it is fairly easy to close off and isolate from normal L.A. traffic. Even during the business week, it doesn’t have much traffic – unlike almost every other stretch of roadway in Southern California.
The song-and-dance number features more than three dozen principal dancers, hundreds of extras, and more than 60 cars gridlocked on the quarter-mile, four-lane flyover from end to end. (All the cars are parked northbound, even though they are staged in two northbound and two southbound lanes; notice the concrete divider in the middle.)
The production had to get permission and cooperation from the California Department of Transportation to close off the section – and in particular to leave the critically important regular traffic lanes of the 110 and 105 nearly 100 feet below them open.
It took six months to choreograph; the crew trashed many of their own cars while practicing the number, which required them to dance on roofs, fenders, trunks and hoods. You can see as the segment progresses in the movie’s opening scenes that almost all the cars have pre-existing dents, from the rehearsals.
It’s a rare clear day in L.A. – because it was windy. That made the camera work especially risky because cranes were used to elevate above the crowd. It was also nearly 100 degrees.
The number appears to be one continuous shot, done in pretty much in one take. In fact, it is three shots stitched together; but the longest single shot – which incredibly lasts nearly four minutes – was actually done in one take. Since the movie was shot on a shoestring budget of less than $30 million, most scenes got only one take! (Although it reportedly took 31 takes to get what the director wanted for “City of Stars”.)
Want to drive this stretch of road yourself? Here’s how to do it: The best view would be for a car exiting the 105 eastbound carpool lanes, and transitioning to the northbound 110. That way you’ll be aimed the way the cameras generally were, with downtown La La Land gloriously sprawled out right in front of you.
December 22, 2016