Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Monday, May 20, 2013
Q: I'd like to know which major movies have been shot in and around the Roanoke Valley over the years.
- Sherrick Drews, Roanoke
A: I hesitate to answer this question because I know I'll be leaving some out, but a little digging reveals that Hollywood has been visiting our region for more than 90 years.
My personal opinion is that the best of the bunch is "What About Bob?" starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. Murray attended a premiere event at the Grandin Theatre and was joined by locals who served as extras or worked on the crew. If you haven't seen it, it's about a psychiatrist (Dreyfuss) and his very needy patient (Murray) who follows him out of New York City to Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H., one summer. The film was shot mostly at Smith Mountain Lake and on a sound stage at the old National Guard Armory. Roanoke is never mentioned in the film, because it's just a stand-in for other places, but a byproduct of the production is that we've had occasional Bill Murray sightings downtown in the years since.
Another movie that uses mental illness for laughs and was shot in Roanoke in 1989 was "Crazy People," starring Dudley Moore as a stressed-out ad executive and Daryl Hannah as a neurotic mental patient who likes to be held.
"Dirty Dancing" premiered in 1987 and starred Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey and Jerry Orbach, the "Law and Order" guy. It was shot partially at Mountain Lake in Giles County, but the story takes place in the Catskills Mountains of New York.
"Sommersby,"a Civil War-era film starring Richard Gere and Jodie Foster, was filmed in Lexington. The town rolled out the red carpet for the production company, which repainted many storefronts and covered the paved streets in dirt to make it look like 1865. After the crew left, the town even kept some of the signage that had been painted on buildings downtown.
Keith Gibson, executive director of the VMI museums, said that the school has hosted several films: "Brother Rat" (1938 - starring Ronald Reagan) and "Mardis Gras" (1958 - Pat Boone). Both included footage of the stars on campus. "Gods and Generals" (2003) took advantage of the historic town and the VMI campus, parts of which have changed little over the years.
Aliens destroyed some countryside in Raphine, when it stood in for a farm outside of New York, in the 2005 film "War of the Worlds," an adaptation of the H.G. Wells story. Director Steven Spielberg seems to like shooting in Virginia, and his recent film, "Lincoln,"was shot in the state, but not anywhere near us. "Lassie" (1994) was filmed in Tazewell County, which isn't exactly "local" but bears a mention nonetheless.
"Borat" (2006) included a cringe-worthy scene at a rodeo at the Salem Civic Center. I don't want to recommend watching it for fear of offending readers, but I will say that I found those few minutes of that film to be one of the most interesting examinations of American patriotism in recent memory.
Finally, no discussion of locally shot films would be complete without mentioning pioneering black director Oscar Micheaux, whose 1927 film "The House Behind the Cedars" was filmed in Roanoke.
So what's missing? A major movie willing to tell a story that's actually set in our region! Last year's "Lawless" told the story of Franklin County moonshiners but was shot in Georgia. I'm thinking that something set against the backdrop of steam locomotives in the 1920s would be good. Or maybe a tale of a lovelorn cook at the Roanoke Weiner Stand who meets Bill Murray when he stops in for "one all the way." What's your idea?
Have a question? An answer? Call "What's on Your Mind?" at 777-6476 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to provide your full name, its proper spelling and your hometown.
Look for Tom Landon's column on Mondays. Read the WOYM blog on roanoke.com anytime.
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us