As a child and throughout early adulthood, I moved a lot. By the time I was 17, I’d lived in four different states. By the time I was 26, I’d upped the ante to six different states, and had lived in multiple parts of three of those six. I’d lived in small communities, college-sized towns, and a major metropolitan area. All of this moving around allowed me to be around a lot of places that movies had been filmed, either while I was living there or in the past. Here’s the full list:
Movies: Back to School (1986); The Last Kiss (2006)
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
I lived in Madison twice, and generally claim it as my home because I lived there longer during my non-infancy childhood than anywhere else. Besides, it’s also my favorite place–a hyper liberal college town often compared to Berkeley, Austin, and Boulder, but with more cows and beer. When I was 11, I first saw the Rodney Dangerfield comedy, Back to School. I thought that something about the surroundings looked eerily familiar, but didn’t think too much more of it. Then a few years later, I found out that Dangerfield’s fictional “Grand Lakes University” was actually the University of Wisconsin, based in Madison. No wonder it had seemed so familiar.
As soon as I graduated from college, I moved back to Madison. I lived there for a few years before moving on because of my job. After I left, another film, this one starring Zach Braff, was filmed in Madison–The Last Kiss. I haven’t actually seen the movie, but I have seen a few key scenes just so I could get a little bit of Madison nostalgia. Most prominent was a scene filmed on the scenic Monona Terrace.
Movie: Public Enemies (2009)
Location: Columbus, Wisconsin
The second time I lived in Madison, I took a once-a-week job milking cows on the weekends (stop laughing; the money helped pay bills). The farm was located in Columbus, Wisconsin. Several years later, a few friends of mine still living in the area mentioned to me that “the new Johnny Depp movie is being filmed around parts of Wisconsin”. As it turns out, it was in the same small community where I had milked cows a decade earlier. For the record, none of the cows that I’d milked had a cameo.
Movies: A League of Their Own (1991); Soul of the Game (1996); Hard Rain (1998)
Location: Huntingburg, Indiana
My parents moved to Huntingburg when I was in college. It’s a small 5,000-member community located about 80 miles from Louisville, and 200 miles or so west of St. Louis. Nestled in the heart of the community is a wonderful ballpark which used to house an independent minor league baseball team. I interned for that team for two summers. The ballpark had just been renovated in the early 90s to accommodate Columbia Pictures when they filmed A League of Their Own. The Rockford Peaches’ home ballpark was actually the park where I worked for two summers. I stood directly on the spot where Tom Hanks uttered the unforgettable line “There’s no crying in baseball!”. A few years later, Hollywood returned to discover that the ballpark’s nostalgic feel had been maintained. The decision was made to use League Stadium as the home ballpark of the Kansas City Monarchs in their film about the Negro League, The Soul of the Game.
At the close of my first summer there, 1996, Hollywood was about to descend upon Huntingburg again. This time, they were going to film a movie about a bank heist that takes place during a flood. It starred Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, and Ed Asner. The film is mostly forgettable, though I did get a kick out of hearing Asner’s gravelly voice growl “Huntin’ boig” whenever he said “Huntingburg”.
Movies: Escape from New York (1981); The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959); King of the Hill (1993); Vacation (1983); Up in the Air (2009); White Palace (1990); Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
I have to point out something really hilarious about this list. As I understand it, Escape from New York was filmed here because there were parts of St. Louis that looked (to the location scouts) exactly like they envisioned a war-torn post-apocalyptic New York would look. The Vacation scenes in St. Louis involved Clark and his family getting hustled in the wrong part of town before getting “Honky Lips” painted on the family roadster. When Clark hears gunfire and tells his family to roll up the windows, that’s in the town where I currently live. And while I haven’t seen King of the Hill, the scenes filmed here were filmed in the slums. Two other movies on the list–Up in the Air and Planes, Trains & Automobiles–feature more scenes at the airport than anywhere in the city. So Hollywood’s message about St. Louis to the rest of the country is “It’s a great place to leave, and they have a lot of broken down slum-like buildings where you might get robbed and/or vandalized”. That absolutely slays me.
One of my very good friends was an extra in Up in the Air. And to be completely fair, there were several other non-airport scenes filmed in the ‘Lou. The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery is a mostly forgettable film, but it was made almost exclusively within a mile or two of where I live in the city. Basically, it was my neighborhood. There are scenes filmed where I used to play softball. There’s a scene where they drive along the beautiful Magnolia Avenue that borders the Botanical Garden and Tower Grove Park. And the bank that was robbed in the film just happens to be the place that I bank. It’s based on an actual bank robbery at that specific bank. It has a very distinctive look. If you’d like to know more about where I live, and want to watch a really boring sub-par movie starring a very young Steve McQueen, check out The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery.
There’s also a mild St. Louis influence on Animal House (1978) and a very strong influence on The Exorcist (1973). Animal House writer Harold Ramis attended Washington University in St. Louis (my employer), and his experiences in a fraternity here helped shape the script. The Exorcist was based on the novel of the same name penned by William Peter Blatty. His novel drew inspiration from an exorcism that took place in St. Louis, and was performed by a teacher at the city’s Jesuit college, St. Louis University.
Movie: Iron Will (1994)
Location: Duluth, Minnesota
I only lived in Duluth for a year, but I suppose I should still include it on the list. A movie about dogsled racing was filmed there. I haven’t seen it, nor do I know much about it. But hey, Duluth is a neat place.