Asheville in the Movies
"Quiet on the set!" is not a phrase you think you’d hear while admiring the serene beauty of the peaks in Western North Carolina. But, more and more Hollywood producers have found that these 6,000-foot peaks provide visually spectacular backdrops for the motion picture industry.
And Western North Carolina captured the attention of Hollywood years ago. The first movie shot in Asheville was in the 1920s. Titled Conquest of Canaan, the movie was filmed in what is now Pack Square in downtown Asheville, and tells the story of a lawyer who makes good in a small town.
From there, Asheville went on to star in Oscar-winning films like Forrest Gump and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, as well as in fan-favorites like Dirty Dancing and The Hunger Games.
Here are a few other examples of Hollywood films and their Western North Carolina locations:
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
After "Three Billboards" racked up numerous award nominations, the movie won four Golden Globes Awards (including the award for Best Picture) and two Oscars for actors Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. The indie movie hit follows Mildred (McDormand) as she rents a series of billboards to make a public statement about the lack of progress in the police's efforts to solve her daughter's murder. Much of the movie was filmed in Sylva, about 50 miles from downtown Asheville. Key scenes in the movie--including the titular billboards--were shot in Black Mountain, N.C. -- just 20 minutes from Asheville.
Dirty Dancing - Remake (2017)
The made-for-TV remake of the classic movie Dirty Dancing was filmed at the High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, located about 60 miles southwest of Asheville. The historic inn built in 1932 was transformed into "Kellerman's Resort." Much of the 1987 original film was shot at Lake Lure.
This heist comedy stars Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig and a host of Saturday Night Live alumni. Filming during summer 2014 included locations such as downtown Asheville's Pack Square, the Buncombe County Courthouse and College Street, all designed to look like Charlotte, N.C. circa 1997. The U.S. Cellular Center was also used in place of a Mexican airport. Learn about what the stars did during their summer in Asheville here.
The World Made Straight (2015)
This film adaptation of local author Ron Rash's novel of the same name was filmed in Black Mountain and in nearby Madison County, where the events of the story has ties to a Civil War-era massacre. Black Mountain's Town Pump bar and historic Old Depot make appearances in the film.
The Hunger Games (2012)
Nearby Black Mountain and DuPost state forest provided the backdrop for scenes set in Appalachian District 12 and the dangerous Hunger Games arena. The young, star-studded cast stayed in Asheville during filming and enjoyed several hotspots around town. Learn more about the production of The Hunger Games here.
Films in the early 2000s:
The Clearing (2004)
The woods near Asheville provide the spectacular setting for Robert Redford’s film, The Clearing, a thriller about a seemingly invincible tycoon who is kidnapped in broad daylight and held for ransom by an unemployed man (Willem Dafoe). The Clearing was filmed at the former Camp Sequoyah boys’ camp in a forest about 30 minutes from downtown Asheville.
Biltmore Estate was chosen as one of several locations for this film. Hannibal cast and crew also filmed in the venerable Florence, Italy. The magnetic and horrifying character of Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, resurfaces after his escape in Silence of the Lambs, the movie that precedes this.
Filmed in 1999 in the mountains around Asheville, this movie stars Aidan Quinn and Janet McTeer as musicians around the turn-of-the-century in rural Appalachia. Lead actress Janet McTeer praised the mountain region, saying, "Having a chance to hear the ballads sung in their natural home was very moving."
28 Days (2000)
This movie starring Sandra Bullock was filmed the summer of 1999 at a Black Mountain conference center that is substituted as the mental institution in the movie.
Films in the 1990s:
Patch Adams (1998)
This drama is based on the real life of Doctor Adams. Featuring Robin Williams, much of the film was shot on Biltmore Estate and the campus of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Several scenes of the Appalachian Mountains were shot off the Blue Ridge Parkway on Elk Mountain Highway in Asheville.
My Fellow Americans (1996)
Shot in May of 1996, this political comedy starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner utilized the grounds of Biltmore Estate and other Asheville city venues, including the heart of downtown where the stars find themselves in the middle of a gay pride parade.
The Journey of August King (1995)
This movie is based on the book by Asheville native, John Ehle. It details the exploits of a traveler (Jason Patric) who encounters and helps a runaway slave (Thandie Newton).
Shot at Fontana Lake, this film starred actress/director Jodie Foster. Tours of the cabin used in the film are available by either a 3-mile hike or by guided boats.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Several of the running scenes in this Academy Award-winning movie were shot in and around Asheville.
Ri¢hie Ri¢h (1994)
Featuring Macaulay Culkin as the cartoon character Richie Rich, this comic spoof transformed the famed 250-room Biltmore House into Rich Manor, where Richie, along with a team of kids, fought off "bad guys."
The Fugitive (1993)
This national blockbuster, starring Harrison Ford, utilized several mountain locations, including the small town of Dillsboro for the spectacular train crash. Today, visitors on the Great Smoky Mountain Railway can view the site of the crash. The Railway’s steam locomotive was used in the movie This Property is Condemned, starring Robert Redford, Natalie Wood and Charles Bronson.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
Based on the novel by James Fennimore Cooper, Western North Carolina became 18th century upstate New York. With Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role, this movie, widely-known for its stunning scenery, was shot exclusively in the mountains around Asheville. Chimney Rock State Park, located just southeast of the city, was showcased during the film and continues to receive calls whenever the movie is shown on television.
Mr. Destiny (1990)
Starring Michael Caine and Jim Belushi, this 1990 comedy was shot at Biltmore.
Winter People (1989)
Starring Kelly McGillis and Kurt Russell, this movie was filmed in large part in Barnardsville’s Big Ivey neighborhood. Shortly after the filming, McGillis purchased vacation property in the area.
Films in the 1970s & 80s:
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Past Chimney Rock is Lake Lure, where Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey practiced moves that helped this 1980s hit to start a dancing craze. The cabins and dance hall pictured in the film are no longer standing, but the view of the lake and surrounding mountains is majestic, and the annual Dirty Dancing Festival is sure to give the time of your life.
Bull Durham (1988)
Kevin Costner's box office hit made use of Asheville's minor league baseball park, McCormick Field. Before recent renovations, the park was the second-oldest major league facility in the nation. Other areas of Asheville, including downtown and today's River Arts District, make cameo appearances in the film.
The Private Eyes (1980)
Don Knotts and Tim Conway starred in this mystery spoof filmed at Biltmore Estate.
Being There (1979)
Biltmore Estate again takes center stage as the home of a wealthy industrialist in the film Being There. In his final film before he died, Peter Sellers played Chauncey Gardener, a dimwit who became revered for his simpleminded ideas. Shirley McLaine also stars in this widely acclaimed comedy.
Films in the 1950s:
Thunder Road (1958)
Most of the scenes in this crime drama about running moonshine in the mountains were filmed in Asheville, and some at Lake Lure. The film was such a hit that it became a cult classic and continued to play in Southeastern drive-in theaters for three decades.
The Swan (1956)
The Biltmore House was first seen on the big screen in 1956, when The Swan opened starring Grace Kelly. It was to be her last film.
*Top photo: Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games."
Photo by Murray Close.