Seven Luxury On-Screen Hotels That Will Make You Book That Vacation
Mr Jason Schwartzman in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014). Photograph by Fox Searchlight Pictures/Alamy
“Anyone who has spent a lot of time in luxury hotels – and I have – can tell you that they are pretty similar to film sets,” says Mr Samuel Muston, co-founder of Chatham Creative. Also a travel journalist, his work has featured in National Geographic, The Guardian and Vogue. “They are both make-believe places, completely divorced from day-to-day life and often full of above-average-looking people.”
Of course, over the past 18 months, even the most frequent of fliers, good looking or otherwise, has had their wings clipped. You might have been on the first plane out as soon as air restrictions were lifted, but the bulk of your travel up until very recently was probably vicariously, through the movies and TV shows you binged.
Perhaps this stopgap has allowed you to question the need for air travel, especially in light of its all-too-real impact on the planet. Or maybe it has emboldened you to further broaden your horizons. Either way, it has probably changed the way you view the world.
“Staying in a hotel you’ve seen on the big screen can give you a real sense of déjà vu,” says Ms Joanna Booth, a travel journalist who writes for The Times, The Daily Telegraph and Travel Weekly. “Standing on the sand outside the Hotel del Coronado, where they filmed Some Like It Hot, I almost expected Marilyn Monroe to teeter past me looking pneumatic in a white swimsuit.”
Booth singles out Schitt’s Creek as the show that got her through lockdown. “And while I currently can’t book in at the Rosebud Motel, that might be about to change,” she says. “The filming location, Hockley Valley Motel in Ontario, was up for sale earlier this year, and I’m crossing my fingers someone will turn it into a themed hotel, ideally with a Moira Rose-inspired dressing up box.”
Here are seven other films and box sets to inspire your next holiday, with assessment from the travel experts.
The White Lotus
Mr Murray Bartlett, Ms Jolene Purdy, Ms Natasha Rothwell and Mr Lukas Gage in “The White Lotus” (2021). Photograph by Mr Mario Perez/HBO
While a lucky few managed to feel the warm breeze of somewhere that wasn’t the bakery section of their local supermarket this summer, the rest of us were glued to the sleeper hit of 2021. “If Jean-Paul Sartre had watched The White Lotus, he might have amended his famous quote to read, ‘Hell is other hotel guests – particularly rich, entitled ones’”, Booth says. “I’ve been forcibly befriended by bickering retirees on a luxury train in India, a drunken pharmaceutical baron at a Patagonian lodge and by a couple on honeymoon at an estancia in Uruguay, who insisted that I join them for dinner. I didn’t stay in touch to find out how long the marriage lasted.”
A signature motif of the White Lotus (so much so that it is used in the show’s opening credits) is the printed wallpaper. “Wallpaper is divisive, and if you’re using it to theme a room, then you must go all out,” says Ms Nicky Guymer, founder of Someday Studio and deputy editor of 91 Magazine. “This is especially true of somewhere you might only spend a few nights. I don’t think the Pineapple Suite achieved this,” she says of the fabled suite of this show, which was actually shot at the Four Seasons Resort Maui. “I did a major deep dive after watching it and saw the prop and set team were fairly restricted on how they could change the rooms – everything had to be returned to its original state – so this probably explains why the design of the Pineapple Suite was, dare I say it, quite pedestrian.”
“Would a tech CEO really rent a room where the kids had to sleep on camp beds?” Muston adds. “Would they even stay at the Four Seasons, not some yacht? One thing that does ring true, though, is over-wrought staff. Go watch the staff doing a full-capacity breakfast service and there you will witness men and women on the edge.”
Lost In Translation
Mr Bill Murray in “Lost in Translation” (2003). Photograph by Focus Features/Landmark Media
“I’ve stayed in the Park Hyatt in Tokyo and there is much to like,” Muston says of the luxury hotel that provides the backdrop to this 2003 film. “The swimming pool on floor 100 looking over the city, for instance.”
But for long-term residents, there’s only so many laps you can swim, as fading movie star Bob Harris (played by not-so-fading movie star Mr Bill Murray) and jet-lagged graduate Charlotte (Ms Scarlett Johansson) discover.
“Hotel ennui can set in during long stays, but I’ve never suffered from it in the Far East,” Booth says. “Mainly because it usually takes me a few days to master the high-tech room electronics. I went an entire stay in Beijing unable to work out which button closed the curtains, and had to call reception in tearful frustration at 2.00am in Taipei so someone could come and show me how to turn the lights off. I’m sure Scarlett Johansson could have whiled away an hour or two experimenting with the different settings on the smart toilet in her room at the Park Hyatt.”
The Night Manager
Mr Hugh Laurie and Ms Elizabeth Debicki in “The Night Manager” (2016). Photograph by Mr Mitch Jenkins/AMC
“The Night Manager is solely responsible for Ca’s Patro March restaurant in Deià being firmly on my travel bucket list,” Guymer says of the lavish 2016 TV adaptation of Mr John le Carré’s novel. “Sun-bleached wood, sea vistas and freshly grilled fish are my holiday crack.”
However, of the many locations showcased in the miniseries, La Fortaleza, seen above, also on Mallorca, stands out for welcoming guests with open arms – in this case an arms dealer.
“I stayed at a different five-star hotel in Mallorca and the clientele were wildly disappointing in comparison with the beautiful, amoral cast of The Night Manager,” Booth says. “Instead of Tom Hiddleston being sucked into the nefarious world of international criminality, I merely found corpulent couples discussing the merits of egg-white omelettes at the breakfast buffet. I’ve never wanted an AK47 more.”
Mr Andy Garcia, Mr George Clooney and Ms Julia Roberts in “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001). Photograph by Warner Bros/Landmark Media
Whether it’s a pair of slippers or miniature bottles of shampoo, most of us have made it out of a hotel with some sort of souvenir. In 2001 heist movie Ocean’s Eleven, Mr George Clooney’s Danny Ocean plans to clean out the vaults of three Las Vegas establishments, which is a step up from a bathrobe. “I never steal from hotels,” Muston says. “I once took a really heavy wooden coat hanger by mistake from a Rosewood in Beijing and felt quite guilty to the point I emailed them.”
“Vegas has appeared in so many movies that the whole Strip can feel like a film set,” Booth says. “But nowhere more so than at the Bellagio, where I defy anyone who has watched Ocean’s Eleven not to keep at least one eye open for George Clooney as they stand in front of the dancing fountains. While some of the original Picassos from the restaurant were sold last month, there are still 12 on show, so there’ll be something to look at while you dine, even if you aren’t put on a table next to two extraordinarily good-looking exes having a public row.”
Mses Lisa and Louise Burns in “The Shining” (1980). Photograph by Warner Bros/Alamy
All work and no play? What could be better than some R&R, not to mention fresh mountain air, in the splendid isolation of the rugged Rockies? For burnt-out writer Jack Torrance (Mr Jack Nicholson), the Overlook Hotel seems like the perfect place to recharge the old batteries over winter. Only the hotel itself seems to have other ideas.
“I’ve never been trapped in a snow-bound hotel with an axe-wielding killer,” Booth says. “But I did spend two nights in a half-built four-star on a Brazilian beach. Despite it being virtually empty, the check-in staff managed to give me the keycard for one of the few already-occupied rooms, and I burst in on a bemused Brazilian wearing only a towel. Mercifully he took my intrusion better than Shelley Duvall.”
Nine Perfect Strangers
Mr Luke Evans and Ms Grace Van Patten in “Nine Perfect Strangers” (2021). Photograph by Mr Vince Valitutti/Hulu
The other summer series centring on pampered one-percenters in a lush setting. It sees a cast including Ms Melissa McCarthy and Messrs Michael Shannon and Luke Evans lured to a Californian wellness retreat with a no-phone policy, run by cultish guru Ms Nicole Kidman. (Although they might have been miss-sold this particular package since it was shot at Soma Estate in Byron Bay, Australia, rather than the American West Coast.) “Why am I here?” one guest asks halfway in. Looking at the set up above – around a firepit, cosy blankets and a restorative drink in hand – why wouldn’t you be? Muston, however, begs to differ.
“This is my idea of hell,” he says. “You go to hotels to avoid people or to do jolly things – like throwing a party in your room – not sit around moping with strangers. Also, far too many açaí bowls for my taste. One thing I do approve of is that no one could use their phone to have loud conversations in the bar – a plus point for me.”
“Hunting out practitioners who have a longstanding and impeccable reputation – and are often locals who were there a long time before Instagram was a thing – would always be my failsafe stance,” Guymer says of the wellness trend. “Put it this way: I’d rather go see Ketut in Eat, Pray, Love than Nicole Kidman in Nine Perfect Strangers.”
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mr Paul Schlase, Mr Tony Revolori, Ms Tilda Swinton and Mr Ralph Fiennes in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014). Photograph by Fox Searchlight Pictures/Alamy
“I usually have a rule to avoid hotels that look like wedding cakes,” Muston says. “But with the Grand Budapest, I would make an exception.”
“Details are everything,” Guymer says, which could apply to most of Mr Wes Anderson’s films as much as this fictional hotel, said to be inspired by the Grandhotel Pupp, the grande dame of Czech hospitality. “Think of all the hotels you’ve stayed in – you don’t remember them for the expansive footprint, you remember them for the rattan coffee table you wish you could’ve shipped back. Without the details, even a luxury hotel has a touch of the Premier Inn.”
“The difference between a good hotel and a great hotel is always down to the staff,” Booth adds. “However, Gustave H [the film’s concierge, played by Mr Ralph Fiennes] really does take personal service a little too far. Guest/staff relations are a no-no, but that doesn’t stop the odd determined customer from trying their luck. I once had to help a cruise ship entertainer hide from a particularly forcible octogenarian who was determined to accompany him back to his cabin.”