#2. The Princess Bride -- Dong Towers and Mayhem at the Real Cliffs of Insanity
20th Century Fox
One of the key settings in The Princess Bride is a place called "The Cliffs of Insanity" -- the characters arrive there on ships and must climb this insanely steep (hence the name) cliff. Later, the awesome sword fight between Inigo Montoya and Dread Pirate Westley happens in some ruins at the top of the cliffs.
20th Century Fox
Thus spawning half a dozen memes, before meme technology had even been perfected.
But that shit is all foam and miniatures, right? Nope, not all of it: These scenes were shot on the real-life Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. At the highest point of the cliffs, there's a real-life tower, put there in 1835 by one Sir Cornelius O'Brien for the noble purpose of impressing female visitors. Some points of the story are debated by historians, but what seems certain beyond any shadow of a doubt is that Sir Cornelius had a very, very tiny penis. He died a few years later and is buried near there.
His penis was preserved and used to paint angels onto the heads of pins.
But that tower looks disappointingly well-preserved. What about some real ruins, something to jump around while swinging a sword with the wrong hand? Sure, they got 'em, too: The name "Moher" actually comes from a fort of unknown origin, now ruined, located on an outcropping of the cliffs named Hag's Head.
George Karbus Photography/Culture/Getty
The hag suffered from severe, debilitating deformities.
And what about some comical misunderstandings involving these cliffs, like in the movie? Well ... that depends on your definition of "comical."
You see, real ships did come here filled with sailors looking to climb. Back in 1588, watchmen on the cliffs saw Spanish ships approaching. The Spanish had last been spotted heading for England, and now here they were -- it looked to them like the Brits had fallen and wee Ireland was next on the menu. The panicked Irish attacked the Spanish ships as soon as they came in and brutally killed 300 men. It was only at this point that they realized the Spanish weren't invading -- they were retreating from England, badly defeated, and turned toward Ireland, hungry and sick, hoping for a warm welcome from those Catholic rebels. Whoops.
20th Century Fox
The son of one slain Spaniard would dedicate his life to tracking down the killers.
#1. The Big Lebowski -- An Unsolved Murder Happened at the Lebowski Mansion
Working Title Films
There are two men named "Lebowski" in The Big Lebowski, and the bigger of the two lives in a fancy mansion. As we've covered before, the same mansion has been used in many other movies, because it looks damn fancy and isn't far from the studio lots.
Working Title Films
A streaking Gary Busey had to be digitally removed from the window.
What we haven't told you is that the mansion was also used in a real-life mystery that makes The Big Lebowski's complicated plot about sex, rugs, and botched funerals look like a Hardy Boys book ... mainly because, almost 90 years later, we still don't know exactly what the hell happened in there.
Theatre 40/Front Door
So it's more like the end of Barton Fink in that sense.
The place is called Greystone Mansion, and it was built in the 1920s by the son of tycoon Edward Doheny. Doheny made a fortune after he struck oil as a teenage prospector in Los Angeles, and if his story reminds you of There Will Be Blood, it should -- he was the inspiration for the main character in that film, whose final milk-shake-drinking, head-bludgeoning scene was filmed in ... you guessed it, Greystone Mansion. Doheny bought the estate as a marriage gift to his son Ned, who built the mansion there at a cost of (in today's dollars) $40 million.
Beverly Hills Confidential
You can't tell because it's in black and white, but this is all solid gold.
The Big Doheny's gift made a fine home for Ned and his wife. Or it would have if, five months after the couple moved in, Ned hadn't been found shot to death in his bedroom.
So who done it? Was it the butler? The secretary? The chauffeur? Ned's "companion"? It was all of them, said investigators, because all four of those titles belonged to one man: Theodore Plunkett. Plunkett was found dead in the hallway, apparently by suicide. The case was closed almost immediately under the official explanation that Plunkett was crazy, but not everything made sense: Ned was found with blood on his face in a way that didn't fit with his wounds, and the family doctor later confessed that he lied about not moving the body.
NY Social Diary
"What a waste of a good rug." -Jeffrey Lebowski
Add this to the fact that Plunkett's wife had left him, that they had found a bottle and glasses in Ned's bedroom, and that this happened two days after Valentine's Day, and the whole thing looks very suspicious. Also, the murder was committed with Ned's gun -- some believe he fired the shots and his family then moved the bodies to hide the men's true relationship. Presumably they also disposed of all the aromatic candles and copious amounts of lube.
Nowadays, Greystone Mansion commemorates this tragic, sordid story with ... murder-themed theater productions. Email for inquiries!
Menezes broke down and set up a Twitter page. His current whereabouts are unknown.
For more surprising backstories of inanimate objects, check out 6 Places You'll Recognize from the Background of Every Movie and 5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out A Sincere Apology From Cracked to the Daily Mail.
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Related Reading: It's a crowded world for movie background locations- if you've ever seen a coffee house in a film, chances are it was the same one. And if you suspected the courthouse square from Back to the Future looked familiar, it's because you've seen it all over the place. This really isn't so odd when you think about it: Superman's definitely artificial Fortress of Solitude has a real crystal doppelganger.