There are certain places in this city that seem to scream “L.A: You Are Here.” Places like the Hollywood sign, the Sunset Strip or the Santa Monica Pier. And then there are the more unexpected landmarks.
The unexpected landmark in question is one Echo Park house which, ironically, became an icon precisely because of how ordinary it looks. It’s a plain white two-story craftsman. No bigger, no smaller than the other homes on Echo Park’s East Kensington Road. But all day, every day, people pose for pictures in front of this house like it’s the Eiffel Tower. Because this is “Toretto’s house.”
Dominic Toretto is the leader of a rough riding, illegal street racing gang played by Vin Diesel in “The Fast and the Furious.” The movie came out in 2001 and spawned one of the most successful film franchises ever. It made big action stars out of Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and the late Paul Walker. It also made a star out of Toretto’s house.
The house doesn’t appear in all the “Fast and Furious” movies, yet it gets dozens of visits from fans every week. All day long, it seems people are gawking at or posing in front of the house. They’re mostly young, teenagers or 20-somethings, and they come from all over the world. This house is on their list of things to see in L.A., right up there with the beach and Beverly Hills. Perhaps because it’s so closely intertwined with Vin Diesel’s beloved Toretto.
“The location says something about the character,” says Bob Craft, the location manager who found Toretto’s house, who chose something that seemed to suit a “working class, blue collar guy trying to survive.” Craft says he searched for a worn-in neighborhood with single family homes and a view of downtown L.A.
Fans’ affection for the home might also be because of how many key scenes take place there. In the original movie, Toretto hosts a barbecue for his makeshift family of illegal street racers in the driveway. In another scene, he bares his soul to the undercover LAPD cop played by Paul Walker in a garage that was specially built in the backyard. Even the actors seem to feel sentimental about Toretto’s house. The filmmakers posted a video on YouTube this year of Vin Diesel and actress Jordana Brewster talking about the house, shot while filming Furious 7:
Back in 2000, the real-life owners of Toretto’s house didn’t see this coming. “We never thought this would be a series of films,” says Marianne, a painter and art teacher originally from Mexico, who asked only to be identified by her first name, because privacy is already a struggle. Marianne and her husband, Damian, bought the four-bedroom, 100-year-old house about 16 years ago with a friend. Filming started about a year after that.
“It gets only stressful when people start knocking on the door,” Marianne says. The attention can be overwhelming. Like when “Fast and Furious” star Paul Walker died in a car wreck two years ago at 40. The LAPD came to Marianne and Damian’s front door to warn them that as many as 10,000 people might show up at their home the next day. In the end, the gathering wasn’t that big, “which was a relief,” says Marianne. The fans did build a shrine outside that stayed there for weeks.
Yet, if Marianne could do everything over again, she’d still let “The Fast and the Furious” film at her house. “Why not?” she asks. “I’d charge them a lot more money.” Marianne hasn’t even seen “The Fast and the Furious.” She prefers classic, artsy foreign films by directors like Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini. Yet, she can’t help but feel a connection to “Fast and Furious,” one that surprises her at times.
When Marianne first moved to L.A., she had zero ambitions to be part of the Hollywood scene. Yet now she has her own little piece of it. “It’s funny,” says Marianne, “we live in Los Angeles, and little by little, you belong to the city and you belong to this industry in a way.”
“Fast and Furious 8” is scheduled to come out in 2017. Toretto’s house, however, won’t be in it. It blew up in “Furious 7.”