Hollywood Heads to the Carolinas
Visitors to Wilmington, NC, head to the movies on the EUE/Screen Gems Studios' tour with access to sound stages and other movie-making facilities.*
Die-Hard Film Buffs Can Relive
Favorite Movie Moments
By Mary Sue Lawrence
Our clumsy pontoon boat slowly edges past a clearing of trees where we can just make out the foundations of buildings and a footbridge.
There’s not much to see, but as the water laps against the low bank, I picture “Baby” and “Johnny” performing 1950s dance moves.
At right is an official press photo of actors Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, showing some of those sultry moves in the 1987 flick.*
Later that night in our room at the Lake Lure Inn (800-999-0999, 917-444-3335 or www.lakelureinn.com) my husband and I snuggle while watching the 1987 classic "Dirty Dancing," giddy knowing it was filmed around the corner and that we were just there.
You might alternatively stay at the Lodge on Lake Lure (800-733-2785 or www.lodgeonlakelure.com).
Visiting movie locations is just so "a-star-was-here" glamorous. Sure, the boat tour of North Carolina’s Lake Lure also featured lots of significant historic lore. But for pure indulgent entertainment, nothing beats on-site movie factoids.
Visiting locations gives life to a film, says Joan Alford of the North Carolina Film Office. “It gives the feel and sense of a place. ‘I’ve been there!’ is also a point of pride.”
Take One: North Carolina
That same weekend, we also climbed Chimney Rock (shown at left*) for a close look at Hickory Nut Gorge, which put us smack in the middle of the 1992 film, "Last of the Mohicans."
It was early fall, and the ground was sprinkled with white rhododendron blossoms -- foliage so familiar from the film that, as we hiked local trails, we half-expected a loincloth-clad Daniel Day Lewis to appear.
Contact Chimney Rock Park at 800-277-9611, 828-625-9611 or www.chimneyrockpark.com.
Shot on nearby Fontana Lake, the film "Nell," starring Jodie Foster, featured a cabin you can reach via a three-mile hike or guided boat.
Also in North Carolina, "Bull Durham" fans love to visit the modest minor league ballpark in Durham.
Asheville’s impressive Biltmore House and Estate (800-411-3812, 828-225-1333 or www.biltmore.com) was used in the "Last of the Mohicans."
It was also the site for filming of the Peter Seller film, "Being There."
In the latter, the house (shown at right*) -- not surprisingly -- “plays” the mansion of a wealthy industrialist!
Several of the running scenes in Forrest Gump were shot in and around Asheville.
In wacky "Talledega Nights," most of the racetrack scenes, including Will Ferrell’s underwear scene, were filmed at Charlotte’s Lowes Motor Speedway (800-455-3267, 704-455-3200, or
You may tour the speedway (shown at left*). throughout the year or enjoy an actual NASCAR race on certain dates. Check the speedway's Web site for schedule details.
In the newly released "Nights in Rodanthe," starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane, look out for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The distinctive black and white swirled lighthouse is shown at left.*
In that film, you'll also view local ferries, and the village and beaches of Rodanthe and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Elizabeth City's Coast Guard station was the backdrop for Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner, who were seen all over town during filming of "The Guardian."
"Junebug" was filmed in a sleepy, north Winston-Salem rural neighborhood (look for local junebugs in some scenes) and at Replacements Ltd., famously stashed with china and crystal.
Buy a ticket to Orton Plantation in Wilmington and fans of "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" will get a sense of deja-vu.
A press photo of a production scene from that movie is shown at left.*
You might also pop into the plantation's chapel, where Mandy Moore’s character got married in "A Walk to Remember."
Wilmington’s Screen Gems Studios(910-343-3433 or www.screengemsstudios.com), the largest full service motion picture facility in the U.S. east of California, turns out such teen flicks as "The Grudge 2" and such dramas as "The Exorcism of Emily Rose."
Tours of this Hollywood-like facility will give you the insider scoop on movie celebrities and television stars, who you might run into while you're in town.
For example, "One Tree Hill" is currently on location and Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Hilarie Burton, Sophia Bush and K-Fed (Kevin Federline) have been spotted at local cafes and stores.
At right, Screen Gems tour participants pass the One Tree Hill soundstage.
The television series "Dawson’s Creek" was also filmed here. Fans often trace the steps of Katie Holmes to her favorite breakfast spot on Wrightsville Beach or former digs at the Wilmingtonian hotel (800-525-0909, 910-343-1800 or www.thewilmingtonian.com).
During early 2008, Ben Stiller and Jason Schwartzman were in town shooting the 2008 release, "The Marc Pease Experience."
Tours of Wilmington’s Screen Gems Studios are priced at $12 per person.
In addition, a new downtown walking tour in Wilmington takes you on site to locations and star hangouts. The "Hollywood Location Walk of Old Wilmington" (910-4-7177 or www.hollywoodnc.com) is also priced at $12 per person.
Film buffs might check out the "Film Junkie's Guide to North Carolina," authored by John F. Blair. It's a travel guide to prominent movie locations, along with Star Tracks (places where stars shopped, dined or hung out). Visit www.filmjunkiesguide.com.
Take Two: South Carolina
Head further south for more. All filming for "The Patriot," starring Mel Gibson, took place in South Carolina.
The encampment and plantation scenes will look familiar after a visit to historic Brattonsville (803-684-2327, or
At left, you'll see "the Redcoats" firing their weapons in a coloful re-enactment event at Brattonsville.*
Shown at left,* Greenville’s Westin Poinsett Hotel Westin Poinsett Hotel (864-421-9700 or www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/poinsett), as well as the city's downtown streets and area high school football fields make appearances in "Leatherheads," the new film starring George Clooney and Renée Zellweger film,
Also in the upstate region, you might raft down the same rapids used in scenes in "Deliverance," shot on the Chattooga River in Oconee County.
In the 2008 film "Gospel Hill," starring Danny Glover and Julia Stiles, the Good Pharmacy in Rock Hill does a stand-in, as does the town’s Laurelwood Cemetery, Gene’s Restaurant, Friendly Mart and the Ponderosa nightclub.
Abbeville’s historic town square and Opera House (864-366-2157 or www.theabbevilleoperahouse.com) were featured in "Sleeping with the Enemy." (The opera house's interior is shown in the photo at right*)
People residing in the Abbeville area were excited about the filming and eager to spot or meet one of the stars. Locals will tell you, however, that they thought Julia Roberts was "stand-offish."
Tom Cruise and the film "Days of Thunder" (see the press promotional piece shown at left*) roared onto the screen from the Darlington Motor Speedway (843-395-8499 or www.darlingtonraceway.com).
"The Prince of Tides," "The Big Chill," and "Something to Talk About" were filmed in picturesque Beaufort and on nearby Lady’s Island.
In "GI Jane" and "The Jungle Book," you’ll recognize the eroding beaches of nearby Hunting Island State Park (843 838-2011 or www.southcarolinaparks.com).
In historic Charleston, SC, hit Upper King Street. Movie buffs will have fun identifying the storefronts and the movie marquis featured in "The Notebook."
Nearby Boone Hall Plantation (shown at right*) was the Hamilton's summer home in that movie.
With a three-quarter-mile-long avenue of 90 live oak trees, Boone Hall is a perennial favorite locale for movie-makers. For example, it was highly visible in multiple scenes of the 1980s mini-series North and South.
The bridge to Mt. Pleasant, prominent in "Die Hard: With a Vengeance," was recently torn down, but you can walk over the new one to get a true feel for the height and danger of Bruce Willis’s stunts.
And on the city’s former naval base, the Lifetime TV series "Army Wives" is quickly becoming a smash hit with its outdoor riverfront shots of the area.
When it comes to movie-making, you'll find plenty of action rolling in the Carolinas.
For More Information
North Carolina Film Office
919-733-9900 or www.ncfilm.com
North Carolina Tourism
800-VISIT NC., 919-733-8372 or www.visitnc.com
SC Department of Commerce (responsible for film)
803-737-1998 or www.sccommerce.com
South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism
866-224-9339 or 803-734-1700 or www.discoversouthcarolina.com
*Photos are courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Travel, the South Carolina Division of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, Lynn Seldon, Historic Brattonsville, and a variety of other tourism attractions within the Carolinas. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.