The Quick 10: 10 Movies Shot on Location

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There's a movie filming in town right now - it's called Smitty and stars Mira Sorvino and Peter Fonda. I'm sure you Manhattanites and Los Angeleans are quite unimpressed, but it's pretty unusual here in Des Moines. But not as unusual as it used to be - a couple of years ago Iowa approved legislation that gives tax cuts to filmmakers if they shoot on location here. I guess it worked - these days, it's not as weird as it used to be if you see Adrien Brody or Susan Sarandon wandering around town.

Anyway, we're just one of many towns to be excited when movie crews pull into town - here are 10 other fairly famous movies shot on location.

mouth1. Roman Holiday. Obviously. It would be pretty hard to make a set pass as some of those scenes, particularly the Mouth of Truth part. In case you're not familiar with the Audrey Hepburn-Gregory Peck classic, Gregory sticks his hand in the Mouth of Truth, a stone carving with an open mouth, and tells her that legend has it that liars will have their hands bitten off. He pulls his arm back and reveals that his hand is gone, and Audrey screams. He has only hidden it up his sleeve, of course. The real kicker? She didn't know that was going to happen, and her shock was genuine. That part took just one take to complete.

2. The Birds. Yep, the Bodega Bay that is taken hostage by blood-thirsty avians is a real place, right down to the cute little schoolhouse. The schoolhouse is a private residence these days, but it still looks nearly the same.

3. Deliverance. Mmm. This is one location I wouldn't want to visit. I'm sure the Chattooga River in Georgia and South Carolina offers gorgeous views of the scenery, and I've got nothing against the Sumter National Forest. I just don't think I could tramp around on a hike without looking over my shoulder for hillbillies trying to kill me. Amongst other things.

4. Groundhog Day. Oh, it was shot on location, but not where you think - certainly nowhere near Punxsutawney, Pa. It was filmed in Woodstock, Ill., chosen for its idyllic, small-town feel. The town was really excited to host the Groundhog Day production, and even put a plaque on the corner where Phil Conners steps into the mud puddle repeatedly: "Bill Murray stepped here."

5. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Like Roman Holiday, there's just no way some of that could have been faked. So, the cast and crew lived in Savannah for a while. You can even go and tour the spots mentioned in film and in the book - there's a walking tour that takes tourists to the Mercer House and through Bonaventure Cemetery, home of the famous Bird Girl statue that adorned the cover of both versions.

6. Dances with Wolves fans, boy are you in luck. The fort from the movie has not only been preserved, it's now a whole tourist attraction called the Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper and Cowboy Music Variety Show and Dances with Wolves Film Set. But it's only the movie fort - the real fort was in Kansas. Some of it still stands, including the guardhouse and some of the officers' quarters. If you're more excited about the movie version, though, it's in Rapid City, South Dakota, just 15 minutes away from Mount Rushmore and 45 minutes from Deadwood.

MBDNOBY EC0107. Speaking of Mount Rushmore, parts of North by Northwest were actually shot on location. But probably not the part you're thinking of: the climax of the movie, the chase across the mammoth stone depictions of four of our greatest presidents, was not shot on location. Oh, Hitchcock wanted to, but the National Park Service denied his request, finding it disrepectful to shoot an attempted murder scene there (that's the fake Roosevelt in the picture). But the cafeteria scene just before, and all of the scenes shot of the parking lot - those were actually shot on location. "¨

8. The most famous films ever shot on location were probably the Lord of the Rings movies, which were, of course, shot in New Zealand. Peter Jackson wanted to go for authenticity and actually shoot in Middle-Earth, but it would have taken production costs way over budget. (Kidding.) More than 150 locations in New Zealand were used, and afterward, some areas of Tongariro National Park were damaged enough that they needed to be restored by a conservation crew.

9. Giant, the classic James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor movie, was shot in Marfa, Texas. What was unusual about this one is that the film's director encouraged citizens to come by and watch the filming or be extras or stagehands. In recent years, parts of There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men were shot in Marfa. Marfa is also known for the Marfa Lights, unexplained colored lights that appear 10-15 times a year (I smell another post...).

10. Close Encounters of the Third Kind shot on location at Devils Tower in Wyoming, despite the fact that Steven Spielberg was originally against doing any location shots. Yeah... that might have been a pretty hard set piece to construct. Although it didn't stop Hitchcock when the real Rushmore was forbidden.

Has a movie ever set up shop in your town? And has anyone ever had any luck with being an extra? Tell me about your experiences in the comments!

And thanks to Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into Hollywood for some of the on-set locations!

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September 17, 2009 - 12:15pm
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