Famous for making the famous immortal through lifelike wax figures, Madame Tussauds Studios last week opened a $55 million extravaganza dedicated to the cult of celebrity in the heart of Hollywood, of all places. Located next to one of Hollywood’s best-known landmarks, the legendary Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the new Madame Tussauds – now one of nine located around the world – opened August 1 and features over 100 characters ranging from classics like Clint Eastwood and Judy Garland to contemporary celebs like Snoop Dogg (yes, the Dogg waxing poetic) and Johnny Depp. Merlin Entertainments, now owner of the studio originally founded by Madame Tussaud 200 years ago (her early pieces included making death masks of aristocrats executed during the French Revolution), definitely decided to make an impact inside and out, hiring noted architect Michael Rotondi to execute an angular, modernistic building that gives “The Boulevard” another dynamic visual cue as Hollywood continues its ongoing renaissance. Anchoring the historic corner of Hollywood and Orange, the three-story building is marked by soaring staircases, vast tracts of glass, geometric zinc panels, and a generous forecourt that lets the legions of tourists and locals gawk at a lifelike Marilyn Monroe recreating her Graumans handprint moment and a glowering, no-nonsense (dead-on by the way) effigy of Samuel L. Jackson.
Once inside the 40,000 square-foot building, visitors get about as close as they ever will without being a security risk to a smartly-suited and smiling Barack Obama before moving on to 18 themed galleries such as Hollywood Icons and Sports. Among other notables like Al Pacino, the Crime gallery houses a jowly Marlon Brando who is ensconced behind a massive desk in full Godfather glory. Highlighting the venue’s interactivity, visitors are encouraged to don a prop hat and sit next to the Don, or attempt to score a basket next to a life-size Kobe Bryant, who possessively holds a game ball in the Sports area. (Should you make the shot, a faux crowd erupts in cheers). Sorry, no Laker Girls included.
Some of the other highlights include Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra and James Dean as a Rebel Without A Cause in the Hollywood Icons area (they were causing a commotion the day we were there); in Westerns, Clint Eastwood in Fistful of Dollars finery and John Wayne in his Rooster Cogburn role look authentically badass; and a modern celeb gala featuring music mavens Elton John, Britney Spears and Shakira looks realistic as they mingle in an uber-party forever frozen in wax. A paparazzi is even included in the diorama – it doesn’t get more real than that.
Click here to view a Madame Tussauds Hollywood Slideshow…
Some “411” on Madame Tussauds:
During an average celebrity sitting (most celebs sit for their double’s creation), 250 measurements are taken of the head and body from every angle. In addition, 180 photographs are also taken with different lenses and lighting to ensure accuracy of the figure.
It takes 140 hours to insert the hair on an average wax head including eyebrows.
Madame Tussauds artists individually insert each strand of perfectly matched hair.
Madonna has been sculpted the most times (five); second is Marilyn Monroe (four);
followed by Brad Pitt (three) and Bill Clinton (two).
Adult ticket price is $25 per person.