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Where Was 'Her' Filmed?
These days, when people watch movies, they’re not just passive participants anymore. Instead, they want to know everything about the story behind the film. Not only are they curious about the actors that played their favorite characters, but also the crew including directors and producers. Learning where a film was shot or looking for hidden easter eggs is more exciting for some.
If you stroll down memory lane and remember an interesting artsy film called Her, then you’ll know that this somewhat unconventional story line won over quite a few people. The plot features Joaquin Phoenix — best known for his portrayal of Johnny Cash and the Joker — who builds a romantic relationship with a smart artificial intelligence virtual assistant named Samantha, played by Scarlett Johansson. The hybrid science fiction meets romance movie debuted in 2013 and was directed by Spike Jonze.
Given how AI continues to guide our lives, people were drawn to this movie. And, even a decade later, people still wonder just how far off society is from relying on AI for more than scheduling smart home features or calendar updates. But for Her, many people wonder where it was shot.
Where Was Her Filmed?
Most people are used to movies being shot on sound stages. Or, more often, a movie is filmed in a far flung locale, but with sets made to mimic famous places. One reason many productions do this is because it’s cheaper. The permits needed to shoot on location in some areas can be too costly for a production that might require three or more months to complete.
But you might be surprised to find that Her was filmed primarily in and around Los Angeles with a few other filler scenes shot in Shanghai. Specifically, a few cityscape and skyline scenes were shot in China. For the LA contingent, much of the work was shot across the city and surrounding suburbs with supplemental scenes filmed on various sound stages. For example, the Warner Bros campus in Burbank, California was the backdrop for the famous beach scene — which was actually filmed on a set. Meanwhile, futuristic city street scenes were usually shot in Disney Studios’ Golden Oak Ranch located in Santa Clarita.
But the apartment of Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Theodore Twombly, was partially shot in Pasadena for interior scenes. Similarly, other scenes were also captured at private residences in Pasadena while the iconic Union Station and MacArthur Park also made appearances in the movie.
Her Wasn’t Spike Jonze’s First AI Story
Her is often cited as an interesting look into how society blurs the lines between AI and reality. But this wasn’t the first time director Spike Jonze decided to get introspective about the role that AI plays and how it shapes our lives. Her came out in 2013 but is predated by I’m Here, a 2010 short film Jonze released that also explores relationships with sentient AI. While Her focuses on an AI-human relationship, I’m Here focuses almost exclusively on a love story between two robots and is loosely based on the iconic children’s book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
In I’m Here, the two main characters, Sheldon and Francesca have a chance meeting at a bus stop. After offering him a ride in her car (although it’s implied in the movie that robots are banned from driving), the two take a trip to the mall where Francesca injures herself. After hurting her knee, Sheldon patches her up.
The movie continues with Francesca frequently getting into calamities that cause injuries and with Sheldon donating pieces of his robotic body to patch her up. Eventually, Francesca is so badly damaged that Sheldon offers his body entirely to repair her, leaving only his head. Yet, the movie ends with Francesca and Sheldon’s head smiling at each other — which is reminiscent of The Giving Tree where the boy (now an old man) ends his days sitting on the tree (now a stump) after it has given all of itself out of love to the boy.
The Plot of Her
Unlike I’m Here, Her revolves around a human falling in love with AI. In Her, Theodore (Phoenix’s character) is an introverted man grappling with a pending divorce who feels emotionally stuck and lonely. The story takes place in a near future version of Los Angeles — which is why much of the movie is shot on location. Theodore buys an AI-based operating system with a virtual assistant that’s designed to adapt and evolve with use. He chooses a female voice, and it decides to call itself Samantha.
Through the movie, viewers learn that Theodore isn’t the only person carrying a relationship — even platonic — with AI. His old college friend Amy (played by Amy Adams) also made friends with a female AI that her soon to be ex-husband created. As the movie progresses, Theodore and Samantha’s relationship grows closer, although it’s obvious that there are limitations since Samantha is bound to the virtual realm. Although Theodore tries to maintain a relationship with Samantha, it proves difficult since they can’t be intimate. Plus, her technology is eventually upgraded to a point where she is now simultaneously connected to thousands of other people and building bonds with them as well.
While it’s not fully explained how, the AI technology eventually leave — not just Theodore but everyone using them. But by now, Theodore is fully embracing his emotions, is able to reconcile and accept his impending divorce, and has gained emotional maturity.
Did Her Win Any Awards?
Her was well-received by critics and consumers alike. On Rotten Tomatoes it continues to enjoy high marks with a certified fresh 94% approval rating from 291 critical reviews and an 82% audience score from over 100,000 ratings. The movie is considered a thought-provoking look into the complicated way that AI technology continues to dominate our lives, and the real-world implications associated with the many ways that society uses it.
In total, Her racked up $25.6 million combined between the United States and Canada and an additional $21.8 internationally for a total earnings of $47.4 million during its initial release. Meanwhile, the film won notable awards such as Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards, Best Screenplay at the 71st Golden Globe Awards, and Best Original Screenplay at the Writers Guild of America and 19th Critics’ Choice Awards.
Her, AI, and What It All Means
To this day, Her is still considered a groundbreaking film and one of the best films from the 2010s and 21st century. More importantly, roughly a decade later, the subject matter is still relevant. Thanks to the rise of adaptive AI that learns as consumers use it, it’s only a matter of time before more ethical questions arise regarding how society leverages this technology, and what boundaries should be created. But, if you loved the movie, just know that all you need to do is take a quick trip to Los Angeles, head to Pasadena, or book a sound stage tour through Disney Studios or Warner Bros. to see where Her was filmed.