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Where The Campus Scenes In Legally Blonde Were Actually Filmed

We don't usually think of "college films" as a genre unto itself, but, to be sure, cinema has given us an enormous array of academic stories of varied tones and thematic persuasions throughout the years. And, under that wider umbrella, there have been enough films set at the world's most prestigious university to constitute a whole subcategory of "Harvard cinema." Between classics like "The Social Network," "Love Story," and "Good Will Hunting," the title of most iconic screen depiction of Harvard is up for debate — but a very strong claimant to it would be "Legally Blonde."

A certified 2000s classic, the Robert Luketic-directed comedy became famous and is beloved to this day for subverting expectations at every turn, offering mainstream audiences a scintillating pop-feminist treatise, and catapulting the then-25-year-old Reese Witherspoon into superstardom. But another key element of its runaway success was the unique, hilarious way it depicted the social milieu of Harvard Law School. This inevitably begs the question — was it actually shot there? Read on to find out.

Harvard is actually the Los Angeles area in Legally Blonde

"Legally Blonde" was not actually shot at the Harvard campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Per Movie-Locations.com, "a few establishing shots" of Harvard Square were the only footage in the movie that was actually shot on location.

Otherwise, scenes set at Harvard were, by and large, shot in Los Angeles, California, and its surrounding area. Rose City High School in Pasadena was used for indoor hallway and classroom scenes, and the rectory of All Saints Church in the same city stood in for the gothic Harvard square. Other scenes around the Harvard campus were shot at UCLA and USC (via Los Angeles Magazine).

The fictional college where Elle is studying fashion merchandising at the beginning of the movie was originally supposed to be USC in the movie itself, but the university didn't grant permission for its name to be used, as noted by the Los Angeles Times. Hence Elle being a "CULA" pupil in the film; early scenes at the made-up college, including the opening at Elle's sorority house, were shot at the CalTech campus.