Lofts in the Movies

Lofts have come a long way from the days when they housed struggling artists in abandoned industrial buildings. Indeed, Hollywood has helped fuel the fascination for lofts by showcasing their high ceilings, open spaces and expansive windows. For certain directors, loft spaces have been instrumental to the plot.

The sweeping lofts in the horror flick, “The Ring,” contribute to the movie’s dark mood and building sense of dread. Christian Bale, who plays a serial killer in “American Psycho,” uses his gleaming, all white loft as the backdrop for his relentless murdering of prostitutes. His pristine fridge is perfect for storing severed heads. Viggo Mortensen, an artist and Gwyneth Paltrow’s lover in “A Perfect Murder,” plots poor Gwyneth’s demise amongst his paint-splattered walls. And, continuing on the theme that only psychos and crazy people inhabit lofts, Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction,” certainly rates a mention. Close stalks Michael Douglas after a dramatic rendez-vous in her Tribeca apartment.

Given that it’s Hollywood, it’s not uncommon for starving artists or characters otherwise down on their luck, to live in fabulous apartments. In Adrian Lyne’s “Unfaithful,” Diane Lane stumbles on the art-filled digs of the sexy Olivier Martinez, a French bookseller, living in New York City. Enormous and filled with objets d’art, the loft is seemingly out of reach of Martinez’ modest salary. In a fit of passion, Richard Gere later murders Martinez in his sumptuous flat — perhaps punishing him for not only trysting with his wife but having the hubris to live in such a big apartment. Jennifer Beals in ” Flash Dance,” dances out her frustrations in what looks to be an abandoned industrial warehouse. A welder by day, Beals makes the most of the loft’s wide open spaces to refine her dance moves.

On the lighter side, “Hansel,” Ben Stiller’s male supermodel in “Zoolander,” occupies a toy-filled loft, complete with skate-boarding ramp. Adam Sandler in “Big Daddy,” loafs around in a cushy apartment, living off the proceeds of a lawsuit, before he becomes an accidental and committed father. And, even though Harry and Sally (“When Harry Met Sally”) are supposedly in their late 20s, Harry somehow is able to afford a million-dollar plus pad. In a pivotal scene, Sally helps Harry unroll rugs in his new apartment, flanked by huge semi-circle windows.

Hollywood’s attraction to lofts may have originated with the renegade nature of early lofts. When manufacturers moved out of large cast-iron buildings in New York’s SoHo district in the 1950s and 1960s, struggling artists moved in. At the time, the typical loft had 10-foot to 15-foot ceilings, thick plaster or brick walls, few or no interior doors and walls, cast-iron columns, and factory-size windows. The large spaces, exposed brick and light-filled areas,were perfect for artists pursuing their trade while enjoying city life. Unfortunately, living in lofts was against the law until 1975 because most city districts were zoned for either all-commercial or all-residential use. But for many, the legal barriers only heightened lofts’ appeal.

As lofts continue to figure prominently in Hollywood blockbusters, viewers will continue to seek the perfect light-filled space.