September 20, 2005
Lights! Camera! Hawaii perfect paradise location
By Paul Majendie
NAWILILI, Hawaii (Reuters) - For international set-jetters
Hawaii is the perfect location.
Jurassic Park, Elvis Presley crooning to his bride -- the
Hawaiian island of Kauai has offered the ultimate exotic
backdrop in more than 70 Hollywood movies.
As the tourist industry enjoys a boom in bookings inspired
by movie and TV locations -- a phenomenon known as
"set-jetting" -- Hawaii is celluloid nirvana for besotted film
It gives them a chance to mix reality with illusion as they
tour sites made famous in a string of movie classics -- as well
as such forgettable stinkers as "She Gods of Shark Reef."
With its tropical forests, volcanic landscapes,
picture-postcard beaches and idyllic waterfalls, Kauai
represents just about anywhere as an all-purpose cinematic
The island stood in for Congo in "Outbreak," for Australia
in "The Thorn Birds," for the Caribbean in "The Man With The
Golden Gun" and Vietnam in "Uncommon Valor."
The hit TV series "Lost" was shot on the Hawaiian island of
Oahu and the state pulled in a record $161 million in
production revenue last year, nearly twice 2003's $84 million.
Even nature has given Hollywood a helping hand.
Steven Spielberg was filming "Jurassic Park" when Hurricane
Iniki hit Kauai in 1992.
So the director took to the roof of his hotel with a
cameraman to get footage of wind-whipped waves crashing over
the Nawilili breakwater. The clips made it into the movie.
Hurricane Iniki ravaged another hotel which was
immortalized by Elvis Presley in "Blue Hawaii."
DRIED UP FOUNTAINS
Today, in spite of its decrepitude, drained pool and
dried-up fountains, the abandoned Coco Palms Hotel is starring
all over again in Hawaii Movie Tours, enjoying a new fame
thanks to the boom in global set-jetting.
As Hollywood-themed tours have taken off, movie fans have
been flocking to New Zealand to lap up the spectacular
backdrops used in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
The New Zealand government even appointed its own minister
to boost tourism following the movies' success.
Hawaii Movie Tours, created in 1996 when its tours centered
on the "Jurassic Park" locations, is now a thriving business
that offers everything from "Blue Hawaii" locations to "South
Pacific" singalongs on the beach where Mitzi Gaynor washed that
man right out of her hair.
"At first we put all our eggs in the 'Jurassic Park' basket
and that was a big mistake. Elvis is now a big draw and very
popular. And everyone loves 'South Pacific'," Movie Tours
company President Bob Jasper said.
With a fleet of tour vans and off-road vehicles combining
with a helicopter to take fans to the more isolated locations,
the tours sate the appetite of even the most fervent film
Fans are shown Sensurround film clips of the scenes in
their van and then pitched into the blinding sunshine to see
the actual locations.
The tours take up to 2,000 people a month around the island
and Jasper told Reuters: "It is growing all the time. We don't
have enough vehicles to keep up with demand."
"We have had Hollywood production people going out on our
tours and Hollywood writers from the studios. But the actors
are kind of jaded and don't want to see movie sets on their
time off," he said.
From the start, the company decided not to visit the homes
of movie stars on Hawaii, a decision appreciated by the
Hollywood studios which have been happy to advertise the
location tours in joint promotions.
"We have even invited stars on private tours but nobody has
nibbled. We offered (James Bond star) Pierce Brosnan a nice
free trip but he is so private and declined our offer," Jasper
Canada has proved a major location magnet for Hollywood
studios, but Hawaii is managing to hold its own in the exotic
background market. And Tinseltown enjoys the familiar.
"There is no language barrier, no monetary barrier," Jasper
said. "We have no snakes here, there is a government they are
used to working with. We have the look, we have the weather.
"We can even look like the flat island of Bermuda if you
shoot at a low angle to avoid the mountains in the background."
On the tours, movie fans from the United States, Australia,
Japan and Britain always enjoy a good singalong.
"People certainly seem very willing to sing. 'South
Pacific' was such a huge hit and a lot of our clients grew up
with it," Jasper said.
"We hand out the words and they see it on-screen on the TV
monitors in our vans. They just love to sing along to 'There
Ain't Nothing Like A Dame'."