We may not be Hollywood but Spokane and the surrounding area have at times played a starring role in major theatrical releases – sometimes as himself and sometimes as other cities, but more often as Anytown, USA (And no, the Red Dawn remake and comedy 2019 Label were not filmed in the Northwest Interior, although they take place here.) From a Steven Spielberg fantasy to a thriller by horror master John Carpenter, here are some notable films shot in and around eastern Washington.
Why would I lie? (1980)
One of the first major features to use Spokane as a backdrop was this long-forgotten comedy starring Treat Williams as a compulsive liar who adopts a precocious child and tries to find the boy’s mother. The film was shot critically and was never released on personal video in the United States.
Vision Quest (1985)
Based on a novel by then-local author Terry Davis, this inspirational story about a high school wrestler (Matthew Modine) and a tenacious vagabond (Linda Fiorentino) was shot at various schools around the city, including Rogers, Shadle and Ferris. The film also features Madonna, who sings “Crazy for You” on stage at the Bigfoot Tavern on N. Division. By the time Vision Quest came out, she was the world’s greatest pop star and “Crazy for You” topped the Billboard charts.
This isn’t one of Steven Spielberg’s most memorable movies, but old school supernatural romance Always uses the locations in eastern Washington (the towns of Ephrata and Sprague), as well as the forests of the Idaho enclave, for a magical effect. A remake of the 1943s A guy named Joe, the film features Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman and Audrey Hepburn in his last film appearance.
A notorious box office flop, Barry Levinson’s Overly-Whimsical Fantasy stars Robin Williams as an eccentric man-child protecting his late father’s toy factory from a militaristic uncle. The factory itself was created to brightly colored sound stages, but there are some gorgeous and eye-catching outdoor scenes that were filmed near the Palouse, most notably in the golden wheat fields of Rosalia.
Benny & Joon (1993)
Aidan Quinn and Mary Stuart Masterson are siblings marked by family tragedy, and Johnny Depp is the eccentric obsessed with silent film that turns their lives upside down. Benny & Joon is practically a tour of Spokane’s locations – Peaceful Valley, Riverfront Park, Ferguson’s Cafe, and Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle – and features a group of A-plus actors in supporting roles: Julianne Moore, Oliver Platt, Dan Hedaya, CCH Pounder , William H Macy. The opening credits tune, the super catchy “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” from The Proclaimers, also became a huge hit.
Smoke signals (1998)
The first widely-released feature film directed by a predominantly Native American crew and crew, this adaptation of a short story by Sherman Alexie was filmed in downtown Spokane and the Coeur d’Alene reserve. It has become a beloved classic and has recently been preserved by the Library of Congress for its historical and cultural significance.
Set during World War I, a family story of German orphans transplanted to the Pacific Northwest and an inspiring teacher (Peter Coyote) who introduces the small town to basketball. Directed by North by Rich Cowan of Northwest, the film focused on the visual splendor of the area, with many shots of the landscape at golden hour.
Mozart and the whale (2005)
This romantic comedy was originally planned as a project for Steven Spielberg, but it ended up being directed by Norwegian filmmaker Petter Næss and starring Josh Hartnett and Radha Mitchell as adults with autism who fall in love. The film features the Gonzaga University campus and Cat Tales Nature Reserve, and a fantastic setting was shot in the main atrium of River Park Square.
End of Game (2006)
There was a period when Cuba Gooding Jr. never seemed to leave the interior of the Northwest, appearing in films shot by Spokane like Lies and illusions, The list of successes and Wrong turn in Tahoe. This 2006 thriller was the first of its batch and Spokane stars in Washington, DC, where a Secret Service agent is investigating a presidential assassination attempt. Burt Reynolds, Angie Harmon and James Woods co-starred.
The house of the brave (2006)
Spokane was in the spotlight again with this Bush-era drama about soldiers returning from the Iraq war (these scenes were shot in Morocco) and readjusting to their ordinary lives. Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Christina Ricci and 50 Cent appeared in the film, and it was directed by longtime Martin Scorsese collaborator Irwin Winkler.
The room (2010)
Horror master John Carpenter came out of a decade-long hiatus for this psychological ghost story shot primarily at Eastern State Hospital, and while critics admired the atmosphere of the actual locations, they mostly shot the film. The film has never been widely theatrically released in the United States and Carpenter has not directed another feature film since. The room.
Knights of Badassdom (2013)
This wacky action comedy plays out like a tote of nerdy pop culture references, with its plot about live-action actors fighting Hell and its cast starring Real bloodit’s Ryan Kwanten, Firefly‘s Summer Glau, Communityis Danny Pudi and Game Of Thrones‘Peter Dinklage. The film generated a buzz after being extensively re-released by its distributors, and director Joe Lynch campaigned for the release of his own cut of badass. ??