Ridgemont High served as the site of some "fast times" in one classic high school movie, and now the El Royale is hosting a different kind of experience. The thriller Bad Times at the El Royale comes out on Oct. 12, and its title basically serves as a vague log line for what the movie's about: there's a place called the El Royale where bad things happen. It turns out that the El Royale isn't exactly a real hotel, but it is loosely based on one called the Cal Neva, W reports. You see, the hotel that's in El Royale is located on the border of California and Nevada, so its real-life inspiration makes perfect sense.
As far as why the movie's hotel is called the El Royale, that could be an inside-Hollywood wink to a hotel in Los Angeles near the base of the Hollywood hills. According to the California El Royale's website, the hotel has served as a location for many film sets and and it's provided a temporary stay for travelers in show business since the 1940s. Seeing as the El Royale has an old-time Hollywood feel to it — it's set in 1969, when the hotel is passed its prime — the California hotel seems to gel with that vibe.
The writer and director of Bad Times at the El Royale, Drew Goddard, told Screenrant that the Cal Neva was among the hotels that inspired him while writing this film, but it's not the only one. "There's a lot of hotels that are sort of infamous for being voyeur hotels and that certainly played a big part of the hotel as well," Goddard said. Perhaps one of those hotels he mentioned was Colorado's Manor House Motel, which writer Gay Talese infamously wrote about for the New Yorker in an article titled "The Voyeur's Motel."
Unless Goddard lists out all of the seedy hotels that he used for inspiration in El Royale, it's hard to find a concrete real-life version of the setting in the new mystery thriller film. If you had to bet though, the Cal Neva definitely seems like a good place to visit if you're trying to find a real place like the movie's El Royale. According to W, the Cal Neva has its own ties to Hollywood as stars from the '40s and '50s would venture to the hotel to test their luck in the casino.
W reports that Judy Garland performed at the Cal Neva when she was 13 years old, and that Marilyn Monroe purposely overdosed on pills there a few days before her actual death. According to San Francisco's CBS affiliate, some believe that Monroe actually even died at the Cal Neva despite her death reportedly occurring in Los Angeles' Brentwood area. The station also reports that Frank Sinatra — who eventually bought the property — brought his friends from the "Rat Pack" to the Cal Neva often, and W reports rumors of mafia activity taking place on the property have also circulated.
It sounds like the real Cal Neva has enough stories to inspire a movie that's more based in reality. For now, the El Royale is serving up enough shadiness and secrets to satisfy moviegoers.