This week, Vulture is looking closely at an array of evildoers, and the various projects in which they do evil.
Key to crafting a memorable villain is a truly excellent lair. It should be a little gaudy, a little menacing, and ideally, incredibly luxurious. Case in point, my favorite deliciously opulent hideout: Gustav Graves’s Ice Palace in Die Another Day. Graves was a forgettable bad guy, but the idea of that icy behemoth was a hideout only the James Bond series could conjure. As the late production designer Ken Adam told The Guardian in 2002, the formula for a memorable Bond-villain lair was established in the very first film: “[good] design, exotic locations, plus a tongue-in-cheek element.”
A location like that is worth a lot to a movie — but how much is it worth on the real-estate market? Once times got tough, how much could Graves expect to net for his evil ice palace? What about the Malfoys and their manor, or Buffalo Bill and his Pennsylvania home? To find out, Vulture consulted with Million Dollar Listing New York broker Ryan Serhant for some expert advice on the curb appeal of the cinematic underworld’s most memorable properties.
Ice Palace (Die Another Day)
“Honestly, the very cool terrain around Reykjavík is all the rage now. You’ve got a lot of rich hedge fund buyers that see getting something cool — like on a glacier or by the water — as very exciting as a vacation home. People don’t think Iceland is close, but actually it’s really close to the East Coast. We have people passing up the Hamptons and Miami all the time to build custom glass homes just like this in and around Iceland. True story. Very random.
“What’s nice about being in the nowhere of outside Iceland is that you don’t have to deal with landmarks or community boards. Whatever you dream, that will be — great for crazy people who live inside James Bond movies. Climate change is a concern here, though. What if all of a sudden, these McDonald’s arches decide to melt? How is the building going to stand up? The design here is like if the McDonald’s arches made a baby with the Sydney Opera House.”
Malfoy Manor (Harry Potter)
“This place is massive. A lot of houses that we sell, we focus on good energy. This house might be big, it might be beautiful, but there’s a lot of negative energy. There are some bad things that have happened in this house and that could probably negatively affect the price. Especially because the Malfoys have been so public. It’s kind of like when white-collar crime happens in New York City, then their apartments come on the market — it’s always harder than when the good guys’ house comes on the market. Harry Potter’s house? People will be all over that one versus Malfoy Manor. Unless the plot of land is incredibly valuable and you can’t get it anywhere else, then people are like, ‘Ah, shit. [Let’s build over it] and we’ll never talk about it again.’
“This place seems incredibly expensive. I don’t really know what real estate would sell for over here, but depending on the interiors and the level of renovation needed and how much evil has happened in there, somewhere in the range of $25 million to $45 million seems pretty realistic for something this size.”
Bates Motel (Psycho, Bates Motel)
“This might be the hardest house to sell in the history of houses, given what’s happened in there and who lives there. It looks haunted, it looks like a scary house, and it’s surrounded by nothing. I would probably put this house under half a million dollars, in part because there are much better options to buy and it looks like a total renovation job. You’d have to wipe out all the murder, all the schizophrenia, all the weird feelings of incest for sure. Otherwise it’s just not a great place to raise your family in.”
Jabba’s Palace (Return of the Jedi)
“Well, this seems like something to be paid for in bitcoin. It’s a little too round for me. It looks like a lot of saucers. I think they’re going for a nice camo look when they blend into the terrain. But I think that’s going to grow old, like the gold-and-green marble and mill work of the ’70s New York design that went out of style. Had Jabba gone for something a little more white, a little more neutral, a little more glassy to let in the light, that would be better. We now have glass where when you clap it goes opaque, so you can see out, but you can’t see in — I don’t understand why he couldn’t have done that.”
Hashima Island (Skyfall)
“I think it’s everyone’s dream to own their own island — the city is trying to sell Rikers Island right now. You’ve gotta factor in the true cost of this: The island probably needs new plumbing, probably needs new septic, probably new electricity. Is there Wi-Fi service? What’s the cell service like, in general? Are you gonna have to have a boat? Are you gonna have to maintain that boat? The maintenance of the boat — how do you get it in and out? Is it big enough for an airstrip or are you going to have to use a helipad? There are a lot of things that people don’t think of that come to the monthly costs when buying property. It’s not just that sticker price. So whoever’s buying this better have a good use for it, otherwise it’s gonna be a money pit.”
Chemosphere House (Charlie’s Angels)
“This house is super cool. But it’s completely impractical, which is hard. We have crazy-cool properties all the time where I say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life.’ The buyer’s market then says, ‘This is cool, but I think I just want something with like four walls, a nice view, a doorman, a yard.’ What happens if you go outside and you’re drunk and you fall off the ledge and you die? That’s a risk.
“As a broker trying to sell this place, it would not be kid-friendly. This has got to be for someone who wants to make a statement and say that they have the Chemosphere house, and one who either has grown kids — buyers in their moonlight years — or they’re not planning on having kids and they want to hang out and party in their UFO house all day long. It makes me nervous to live on something that’s on stilts that’s perched up above the ground in that way, especially in an area known for earthquakes.” (Zillow estimates the real-life property at $2 million.)
Harry Osborn’s Penthouse (Spider-Man)
“Tudor City’s great, but not as great as it used to be. Tudor City’s a hard sell because Tudor City used to have a brand name as a location, and now all those people who believe in that brand name are 80 to 90 years old. Everybody who wants a brand name now goes to Meatpacking, Madison Square Park, Soho, Tribeca, Dumbo, or Prospect Heights. Tudor City used to be great when people were excited to not have to live on the Upper East Side. This penthouse looks like it’s probably $5 million to $7 million. I can’t tell how big it is, but ten blocks north or ten blocks south [of Tudor City], it could be almost double that. Harry Osborn trots around like he’s the shit, but he’s in Tudor City. It’s not that great.”
Buffalo Bill’s House (Silence of the Lambs)
“Listen, serial killers are never good for real estate. This house is in great need of renovation: It’s got a kitchen from the ’70s; it’s got Formica countertops; it’s got shower tile around the kitchen island.
“Sure, there’s also a lot of death and skin in this house, but it’s probably not as bad as buying a house where someone has been a smoker. With smokers, you have to repaint everything. You can probably get away with not repainting everything in this house. I don’t remember if Buffalo Bill was a smoker or not. This location, outside Pittsburgh, is really, really nice. I think it’s appreciated over time. And maybe you can get a city ordinance to change the legal address so that when people Google your new address, they don’t even notice the connection. We do this in buildings in the city a lot. Not because of serial killers, but because, you know, a building’s on a corner.”
Crab Key Island (Dr. No)
“The No. 1 thing that people are looking for when they shop for real estate is light and views. That’s it. No. 1: They want light and they want views. I think this is probably a good location, which adds [positive] points, but [the lair itself] has no light, no views. It look likes it’s built on a rock, and that’s kind of this grungy, Zen feel, which isn’t for everybody. Someone will probably have to renovate this place because it looks like a tree is used for half a wall.
“Listen, if I’m going to buy in Jamaica, I want to be on the beach, right? I want sun; I want to hang out. I don’t want to be down underground. If I wanted to be down underground, I would just take the subway in New York City all day every day. There are sharks down there, too.”