Now you know the truth: Lorelai Gilmore’s Connecticut high school in Gilmore Girls was the same place where Cameron Diaz and Jude Law shared a London dinner in The Holiday and a Palo Alto, California–residing Justin Timberlake partied in The Social Network. Angela Lansbury investigated a crime in Murder, She Wrote in one room, while in another, Meat Loaf crashed through a window in the video for “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”
This popular spot is called Greystone Mansion. Situated on a sprawling 18 acres, the 55-room, 46,000-square-foot historical Tudor Revival–style building has served as a shooting location for roughly 200 movies (Rush Hour, X-Men), TV shows (ER, Alias) and music videos (Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together”) over the past half century. Named for its sheer, gray stone walls, the Beverly Hills, California, home has been owned by the city’s parks and recreation department since 1965.
“It’s an architecturally interesting home because even though we’re on the West Coast, it can look like anywhere,” says Sara Scrimshaw, the city’s venue coordinator. “It’s an elegant property with beautiful grounds so you can find a place like this on the East. Or it can be turned into an English Gothic mansion. And because we’re a public space, a location manager can dress it up.”
Completed in 1928 at a cost of $3.135 million, the home was built by oil tycoon Edward Doheny as a gift for his son, Ned, and his family. Famed architect Gordon B. Kaufmann (the man behind the Hollywood Palladium and the Hoover Dam) designed it with a style of elegant authority, including touches such as hand-carved wood in the grand entry, a steep slate roof, and huge terraces. There’s a screening room, a grand ballroom, and a servants’ wing. The bowling alley was seen in the climactic scene of the 2007 epic There Will Be Blood—Daniel Day Lewis’s greedy character, in fact, was loosely based on the Doheny patriarch.
Beauty aside, the mansion is steeped in mystery befitting a classic film noir. Ned Doheny had only been living there for five months before he was shot and killed by his male secretary (who then turned the gun on himself). The motive remains unclear. In 1955, his widow and mother of his five kids sold the property to a Chicagoan that had plans to subdivide and demolish it; the city of Beverly Hills bought it instead. The site was also home to the American Film Institute from 1969 to 1982.
So how does one spot Greystone on the screen? Look for the black and white checkered marble floor in the main hallways. Robert Downey Jr. walked on it in the Elton John video “I Want Love,” as did Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man when he fought the villainous Green Goblin. “There’s a very well-known scene in The Big Lebowski in which you can see it,” Scrimshaw adds of the 1998 cult hit.
These days, Scrimshaw says that Greystone is used as a location spot for about five productions per year. It also hosts 40 weddings—use of the garden space will set you back $9,000, while marrying inside the estate costs upward of $18,000. The park grounds, however, are open to the public year-round, free of charge. “We’re proud of it,” Scrimshaw says. “And no matter how many millions you have, it’s not for sale.”
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest