Palm Springs’ proximity to Los Angles means the desert is no stranger to actors, producers and Hollywood celebrities of all kinds. It’s also no surprise then that far from just using Palm Springs as a place to relax, Hollywood has looked at the region as a great location for movie-making.
I’ve picked out three films shot here in the desert, and alongside them, three things you can learn about Palm Springs from watching them.
Mission Impossible 3 & Wind Power
There’s an epic helicopter chase in this movie, where the choppers weave and swerve through giant wind turbines. That was shot just outside Palm Springs in the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm. The entire wind farm can be seen from atop the San Jacinto mountain, via the Palm Springs Aerial Tram, and it’s a spectacular view. (Read my blog about it and other natural wonders here)
The wind farm is one of the largest, and lies in one of the windiest areas in California, thanks to a narrowing of the mountains through the pass. Wind blowing through here picks up speed, much as putting your finger over the mouth of a garden hose will accelerate the water. Energy produced here goes to Palm Springs and surrounding areas including the L.A. region.
You can actually go behind the fences guarding these desert sentinels and tour the wind farm. Palm Springs Windmill tours takes visitors on informative, 90 minute jaunts through the area.
Diamonds Are Forever & Architecture
If you hearken back to the Sean Connery era of the James Bond franchise, you might remember the scene in Diamonds Are Forever where Bond meets up with bathing-suit assassins Bambi and Thumper in a strange house with rocks protruding through the floor, and coming in through the walls.
That scene was shot in the famous Elrod House in Palm Springs. The home was designed for designer Arthur Elrod by noted architect John Lautner. Far from being vexed when his survey crews started finding massive truck-sized boulders on the site, Lautner was pleased. As described on the home’s website, “before construction the entire site was excavated eight feet to the bed rock that forms the ridge. The rock formations are integrated into the house, rising out of the herringbone tiled slate floors. The plan of the house plays off features within the rocks.”
Those rocks became integral to the Bond scene, and the desert can be seen beyond the glass walls.
The iconic home has been opened for public tours before, most notably as part of Palm Springs Modernism Week (read our article about the annual event here) but for now, mod buffs will have to be satisfied with this gorgeous online tour provided by the owners. You can also read more about this home specifically on our blog.
The Scorpion King & Desert Geology
The Scorpion King, starring Duane ‘The Rock’ Johnson features the time-honoured move battle of good soldier versus evil army. Here, the desert plays a key role as the setting for both the unfolding narrative and the ultimate showdown.
Battling it out in the sands required a shooting location that best captured the harsh environs, so film crews trekked a couple hours from Palm Springs to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
The scenery out here is absolutely stunning; everything from dusty dunes, to jutting rock, steep canyons and towering spires. It might be best appreciated in the “fire ants” scene from the movie where our king is buried up to his neck in sand next to giant ant hills.
You can enjoy the desert vistas for yourself by exploring the park on a day trip from Palm Springs, or by spending a couple days in the charming Borrego Springs town area. Read more about the fun things to do in the area here.
There are many other films that have been shot in Palm Springs. We’ll look at more of them in future blogs, so please send suggestions or questions to me via Instagram or Twitter @ErinLYYC.
This article was originally written for the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism website. Check out more of my blogs on fun, unique and cool things to do in Palm Springs there.