With a little help from my friends (at Universal) l was able to find Harry Gesner’s iconic Wave House.
Real estate geeks like myself can’t help but be captivated when they see a pivotal scene in The Beatles–themed movie Yesterday. That gorgeous Malibu beach house? You know you’ve seen it somewhere before, right?
Since I couldn’t pinpoint it on my own, a savvy Universal Pictures rep helped me unspool the location backstory, and it’s a great one: the home used for a crucial scene is the Cooper Wave House, built in the late 1950s and designed by consummate California architect Harry Gesner.
In the film, during a worldwide power outage, struggling musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) gets hit by a bus. When he awakens up, he’s in an alternate world where he’s the only one who’s ever heard of The Beatles.
Jack begins performing The Beatles’ songs and claiming them as his own. Ed Sheeran, who plays himself, hears Jack and decides he’s the greatest thing since … The Rolling Stones? Sheeran introduces Jack to merciless music agent Debra Hammer (Kate McKinnon), who flies him to L.A. to prepare him for a worldwide debut.
Here’s where the unreal real estate enters the frame.
In her outrageously gorgeous Malibu beach house, the agent lays out a vision of Jack’s future and the sacrifices he’ll have to make. She’s eager to make big bucks to buy the entire coastline, and Jack is waffling. He winds up being swayed by the mesmerizing location and agrees to her demands.As the scene unfolds, it’s easy to see the influence of the home and its location. With the waves crashing right outside the circular living room, it’s every beach lover’s dream.
“It’s a scene about both the glamour—and the cost—of fame,” the rep told me.
There’s also a deeper subtext to the choice of this home.
“Narratively, it also serves as a contrast to Jack’s previous life. Early in the film, he’s walking down a beach in Frinton-on-Sea in rural England, which features little, brightly colored huts on stilts. Later, in this scene with Debra, with his life about to change, he’s suddenly on a very different beach in an entirely different kind of house on stilts,” the rep explains.Whoa. Deep. But so is the home’s history.
Gesner, a World War II hero and self-taught architect, studied with Frank Lloyd Wright for a while before he decided Wright’s methods were too restrictive.
Gesner, who is still creating at age 94, designed the iconic house to look like a cresting wave. It was a commission for a man by the name of Gerry Cooper.
“I built the Wave House around a series of curved, laminated beams,” Gesner told Curbed.com. “I wanted a shape like you’d find in the ocean. I really wanted something that was suitable to that site.”
Danish architect Jorn Utzon was so impressed by the Wave House, he used it as inspiration for his design of the Sydney Opera House.“Incidentally, it’s a round house, even though it looks like a wave,” he continued. “I wanted a roof that formed to the curves, like scales on a fish. That’s why it has a copper roof with shingles. Not just for the effect, but because it works.”
Incidentally, Gesner lives right next door to the Wave House, in a cylindrical-shaped structure known as Sandcastle House. He built that home as well—from stucco, wood, and salvaged material—for his wife, actress Nan Martin.
It’s easy to see why the location scouts for Yesterday were impressed by the Wave House. It’s prominently featured on MalibuLocations.com, in all its redecorated glory.
See my original feature on Realtor.com for more photos and info on the famous Malibu Wave House.
Lisa Johnson Mandell
Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.
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