This is a column called Nebraska at the Movies, and it's based on the idea that Nebraska has had a weirdly outsized role in Hollywood. (Or at least it *seems* that way to us.)
Harold Lloyd. Marlon Brando. Johnny Carson. Gabrielle Union. Fred Astaire. Hilary Swank. Alexander Payne. Darryl F. Zanuck. Henry Fonda. "Boys Town." Adam Devine. Larry the Cable Guy. Nick Nolte. Dick Cavett. Marg Helgenberger. L. Ron Hubbard. And many more movies and movie stars.
The column will poke around some of the more surprising corners of Nebraska film history, while also just generally looking at the state's history of going to the movies. This will be the place for photos of old movie theaters and drive-ins, old movie ads, reprints of amusingly misguided movie reviews from the World-Herald's past and a lot more I haven't thought of yet.
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11 movies that were set in Nebraska but actually filmed elsewhere
It's an affront to our dignity! (Or at least our local economy.) But quite a few Nebraska movies were not filmed in or even near Nebraska. Apparently, when approximating the Good Life on the big screen, any old farm-y location will do. Just don't forget to put on the family-values lens filter.
Here are 11 dirty, rotten crimes against geographical authenticity.
“Heaven is for Real” (2014)
“Heaven is for Real” tells the true story of a boy who woke up from surgery and said he had been to heaven. The movie is set in Imperial, Nebraska, where the events actually took place, but it wasn't filmed there. In fact, it wasn't even filmed in the U.S. It was shot mostly near Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“Children of the Corn” (1984)
One of the most iconic Nebraska movies was shot almost entirely in Iowa, with a few of the highway scenes filmed in California. Actually, of the considerable number of "Children of the Corn" sequels/remakes, none lists Nebraska as a filming location. The original was set specifically in a fictional Nebraska town called Gatlin.
“The Stand” (1994)
Another Stephen King adaptation set in part in a fictional Nebraska town, this one being Hemingford Home (based on Hemingford, Nebraska). Hemingford Home is where saintly, old Mother Abigail lives in “The Stand.” In a 2010 interview with USA Today, King said he “wanted to put Mother Abigail in the American heartland. That's Nebraska.” The TV mini-series was shot in several states. None of them Nebraska.
“Boys Don't Cry” (1999)
It's no surprise that the film dramatization of the Brandon Teena story wasn't filmed in the part of southeast Nebraska where the events took place. Not a story a community would want to relive, after all. Friends and family were not happy with the film, which was mostly shot around Dallas, Texas. One woman sued the distributor for how she was portrayed in the film, and Teena's mother criticized both Hilary Swank for her Oscar acceptance speech and the film's director for skirting over important details in Teena's life.
“The Happening” (2008)
I'd decry “The Happening” for its horrible depiction of small-town Nebraskans, but it's probably the 75th worst offense in M. Night Shyamalan's movie, so whatever. In a montage of how people across the country are responding to the evil-tree crisis, “Happening” flashes to a trio of camo-wearing guys in Fairfield, Nebraska, who load their guns as they watch the events unfold on TV. If you want to see what guns the fictional Fairfielders are handling, check out this post at the Internet Movie Firearms Database.
The movie was filmed in Florida, but the country club was set in Nebraska. This is apocryphal, but apparently the crew spent days spray-painting the clubhouse grass to fit that of its Nebraska setting.
“Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach” (2009)
In this not-well-known comedy, Seann William Scott plays a failed-tennis-pro-turned-janitor who starts coaching a group of misfits and leads them to the state championships. The movie takes place in Lincoln but was shot mostly around Austin, Texas. The movie's screenwriters, Rick Stempson and Andy Stock, are Lincoln natives and also wrote the screenplay for the Jeremy Piven comedy “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.”
“Joy Ride” (2001)
This fun early '00s thriller stars Paul Walker and Steve Zahn as brothers on a road trip who incur the wrath of a psychotic truck driver and get chased across Wyoming and Nebraska. None of the Nebraska scenes were filmed in the state. Shooting locations included Utah, California and Nevada. You'll be able to tell that the Nebraska scenes aren't the real deal by the mountains in the background.
“Hope Springs” (2012)
Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep play a boring, bored couple in Omaha who find their romance renewed by going elsewhere. None of the Omaha scenes were shot in Omaha, but you can catch a glimpse of a World-Herald newspaper in one scene.
“Night of the Twisters” (1996)
This Family Channel movie was based on the novel by Ivy Ruckman, which was based on the real 1980 Grand Island, Nebraska, tornado outbreak. The book took place in Grand Island, but the town became the fictional Blainsworth, Nebraska, for the movie. And, wouldn't ya know it, the whole thing was filmed in rural Ontario. The 1996 movie “Twister” also missed us, getting filmed in Iowa and Oklahoma.
This one is a little iffy. Sidney Lumet's “Fail-Safe” — one of several great nuclear panic movies of the '50s and '60s — is set largely at Offutt Air Force Base (when it was Strategic Air Command headquarters). The movie also shows what's supposed to be an Omaha neighborhood. Our archives indicate that the movie was not filmed in Omaha nor at Offutt. But the movie production apparently made claims to show footage of the base. Other popular films, such as Jimmy Stewart's “Strategic Air Command” and “Dr. Strangelove,” depicted aspects of SAC, just not the SAC headquarters.
Note: The story was an update of a previously published article.
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