In now-I-feel-old news, the 1994 Jim Carrey comedy The Mask turned 20 on Tuesday. The date also marked the 20th anniversary of the film debut of Cameron Diaz, who, in her inaugural acting role, played lounge singer Tina Carlyle in the flick. In her first onscreen moment, the then 21-year-old was shown stepping out of the rain into one of downtown L.A.’s most historic buildings.
While The Mask was set in the fictional Edge City, it was actually lensed right here in Los Angeles. Several recognizable SoCal locales were featured, including the Warner Bros. Studio backlot (Carrey’s Stanley Ipkiss character lived with Milo the dog on Hennesy Street and the Cuban Pete dance sequence was shot on New York Street), the Park Plaza Hotel near MacArthur Park (the property’s Terrace Room served as the interior of the Coco Bongo nightclub) and Van Nuys City Hall, which masqueraded as a police station. The spot where Stanley (and audiences) first captured a glimpse of Diaz is the former Hellman Commercial Trust and Savings Bank, now known as SB Spring, at 650 S. Spring St. in downtown L.A. In The Mask, the site masqueraded as Edge City Savings & Loan, the bank where Stanley worked.
The 12-story Beaux Arts-style building was constructed in 1924 by the Schultze & Weaver architecture firm at a cost of $2.5 million. While the intricately carved exterior is spectacular itself, it is the stunning ground floor former bank that is the property’s hallmark. The opulent two-story space features 32-foot-tall coffered ceilings hand-painted by Giovanni Smeraldi, arched windows, marble staircases, wood paneling, and intricate bronze chandeliers.
Shortly after the building was completed, Hellman Commercial merged with Merchants National Bank and was then taken over by Bank of America in December 1928. For the four decades that followed, the Hellman building served as Bank of America’s Los Angeles headquarters and became known as the “Bank of America building.” When BofA moved its headquarters to Flower Street in 1972, the upstairs offices of the Hellman building were leased out to various businesses, but the ground floor bank remained in operation. The branch saw a steady decline in business, however, and was closed in March 1988. It did not take long for location scouts to come a-knockin’.
The venue has since been the site of several memorable onscreen moments–it is where Jennifer Garner performed the Zombie Dance from “Thriller” in 13 Going on 30, where Maya Rudolph has an unfortunate “accident” in Bridesmaids, where Steve Martin shows financial records in order to secure a dinner reservation in L.A. Story, and the London offices of The Daily Telegraph, where Kate Winslet learns the object of her affection is engaged to another woman in The Holiday.
In 2009, the development company SB Properties rehabbed the Hellman Commercial building’s upper floors, converting the offices into upscale lofts, but the bank was left untouched and remains available for filming, as well as special events. Here’s hoping the place endures as a site of movie-making magic for the next 20 years. That would be SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSMOKIN’!
Lindsay Blake is an actress, writer, celebrity admirer and Los Angeles enthusiast who contributes to CityThink each Thursday. Her true love is filming locations, and she founded the Web site IAMNOTASTALKER in 2007 to document her vast findings on the subject. For more “stalking” fun, you can follow Lindsay on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.