Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected
Breaking news: Mark Ridley-Thomas is found guilty of bribery and conspiracy

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.

Arts and Entertainment

Aha! David Cronenberg Admits He Lit Up The Hollywood Sign [UPDATED]

Photo by Tyler Shields via Instagram)
Support your source for local news!
Today, put a dollar value on the trustworthy reporting you rely on all year long. The local news you read here every day is crafted for you, but right now, we need your help to keep it going. In these uncertain times, your support is even more important. We can't hold those in power accountable and uplift voices from the community without your partnership. Thank you.

We were right. (Or, half right). David Cronenberg's new film Maps To the Stars was the reason the Hollywood sign was mysteriously lit up last month as the director explains to The Hollywood Reporter.

LAist attempted to crack The Mystery of the Hollywood Sign Light and, thanks to plentiful reader tips, fingered the Canadian director as the likely culprit. We also received tips that another production was shooting up near the sign, Tyler Shields' aptly named Outlaw, that was doing so without any permits.

Turns out that Cronenberg also sidestepped the red tape, which is why the Hollywood Sign people, Film LA, the LAPD and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce were all in the dark about who was lighting up the iconic sign. [Note: The film's location manager reached out to LAist to tell us they did have the proper permits. Full update below].

Support for LAist comes from

David Cronenberg at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on September 5, 2013. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

As The Hollywood Reporter explains, "Needing to illuminate the famously unlit Hollywood sign for one scene August 20, but not wanting to deal with the bureaucratic hassle and the NIMBYism that would come with a permitting request, they devised a novel way to irradiate it from a mile and a half away using powerful 4K HMI lights."The director tells the industry magazine, "It's no different than shining a light from a helicopter." (Which was one of our early working theories, fwiw.) "I was frankly just surprised to learn the sign wasn't lit in the first place. If it were Paris, it would be lit at night!"

Of course, the sign isn't lit up on a regular basis because residents would complain.

The truth came out last month, with several locals telling us it was indeed a movie shoot and Nick Roth dropping Cronenberg's name on Vintage Los Angeles's Facebook page.

Shields' camp did (unofficially) claim credit and the indie director/photographer/enfant terrible even Instagrammed a photo of the landmark saying, "This is what the Hollywood sign looks like when you put a few massive lights on it." Turns out, those massive lights weren't his. Our tipsters in both camps claimed that they never saw the other production, so a bit of mystery still remains.

Maps to the Stars is a dark take on Hollywood with one of the story lines being about a limo driver (Robert Pattinson) who falls for an unbalanced pyromaniac (Mia Wasikowska). It will premiere at Cannes in 2014.

UPDATED, SEPTEMBER 6, 7:54 A.M., Scott Trimble, who served as the location manager on the film reached out to LAist to set the record straight yet again. We contacted him after he left the comment below. Cronenberg's production did have the proper permits, he tells us via email. The implication that it didn't was simply a misinterpretation of Cronenberg's comments, Trimble explains:

"Regarding the Hollywood Reporter article, David Cronenberg slyly (and correctly) pointed out something today that I too had seen in his words. Notice that he didn't say that we didn't have permits to light it up from afar (note his analogy to helicopter spotlights), but that we did not want to get the permits to light it up from up close (which would mean placing the lights on the hill below each of the letters, similar to what was done back on 31 December 1999). Of course, that subtlety was probably lost because many in L.A. had already been under the impression that we didn't have our permits at all."

Trimble told LAist that all their paperwork was in order, even if all the officials we called knew nothing about the production (or weren't letting on that they knew):

Support for LAist comes from

"I still have our Film L.A. permit which describes the lights. I also have our signed contract with Global Icons (who handles the fees for Hollywood Chamber of Commerce). There's also a record of the payment to Parks & Rec for their monitors who supervised our actions. As for L.A.P.D., their 24-hour police station above the Hollywood Sign was notified and word went out through their dispatch."

He also clarified that The Hollywood Reporter was wrong about how far away the film shoot was located from the sign: "It wasn't 1.5 miles. We were about 0.25 miles away," he says.

Trimble has worked on more than 85 feature films and 30 television series, scouting or managing locations for projects including Star Trek, Super 8 and Mission: Impossible 3 for J.J. Abrams. He also (interestingly enough, given where all this story has led us), worked on Mythbusters.

Hollywood Sign Lighting Mystery Solved!
It's A Mystery: Why Was The Hollywood Sign Lit Up This Week?
People Who Live Near The Hollywood Sign Hate When You Visit It

Most Read