Courtesy Wilmington and the Beaches CVB
From the Boston park bench where Sean and Will conversed in “Good Will Hunting” to “Cheers,” the Boston hang-out where bartender Sam winked at every woman who walked in the door to the streets where the detective Sonny laid tire in his Ferrari in “Miami Vice,” television and movie memories are just part of why we love many travel destinations.
Although your group may have experienced the best of museums and restaurants in those favorite locations, chances are they have not enjoyed an authentic behind-the-scenes tour to check out those familiar sights that are forever embedded in our show-biz brains.
So hop aboard with these local experts, who can show you the courthouse steps where Matlock made his entrance and the city street where Ferris Bueller led the parade, and tell you the true scoop behind the stories you love so much.
In the early 1980s, movie producer Dino De Laurentiis chose Wilmington as the location for his movie “Firestarter,” based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King. De Laurentiis was so pleased with that East Coast location that he built a studio and produced many films there.
Since then, that city has earned the nickname Wilmywood and has been the backdrop for dozens of movies, including “Lolita,” “The Secret Life of Bees” and “20 Funerals.”
“Home to countless television shows, Wilmington has over 400 film credits,” said Connie Nelson, communications and public relations director at the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Thanks to an underwater tank, ‘Iron Man 3’ is being filmed here right now. ‘Matlock’ fans love to come see the courthouse steps, fountain and more that was part of that show’s last three seasons. Nicholas Sparks’ films, including ‘A Walk to Remember,’ were filmed here. And ladies love to come visit the restaurants and plantation that was part of the movie ‘Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,’” Nelson added.
Groups can take the official Hollywood Location Walk of Old Wilmington with Wilmington Walking Tours and visit authentic locations and sets. Behind-the-scenes stories involving the movie stars who have worked, vacationed and lived in Wilmington are all part of the 90-minute tour.
Although a step-on guide is an option, Nelson suggests walking the tour, if possible.
“So many of the locations are literally a block from each other, it’s an easy and enjoyable way to get the best from our city,” she said.
In 1927, a man by the name of Peter Marshall came to the United States from Scotland. Marshall, who ministered in Covington, went on to become the chaplain of the United States Senate.
“‘A Man Called Peter,’ an Oscar-nominated film, was made about his remarkable life in 1954. This put us on the map for decades of filmmaking,” said Clara Deemer, director of tourism for the Covington/Newton County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Deemer claims that the town’s show-biz motto is “We can be anything they want us to be,” as Covington and the surrounding areas have been known as Hazzard County, Georgia, and Sparta, Mississippi, for the hit television series “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “In the Heat of the Night,” respectively. “Miss Evers’ Boys,” based on the true story about the U.S. government’s 1932 Tuskegee syphilis experiments, transformed Covington into a dusty town from the era.
“We are now Mystic Falls, Virginia, for ‘The Vampire Diaries,’ the top-ranked show on the CW Television Network,” Deemer added. “Our downtown courthouse and square are so beautiful. It is surely one of the most filmed locations ever.”
Visitors recognize those locations and more when remembering “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Madea’s Family Reunion,” “Remember the Titans,” “American Reunion” and the 2011 remake of the classic “Footloose.” The area is also the filming locations for the soon-to-be-released films “Flight” with Denzel Washington and the Billy Bob Thornton film “Jane Mansfield’s Car.”
Take the ultimate tour of Beantown with On Location Tours’ Boston TV and Movie Sites Bus Tour or its Boston Movie Mile Walking Tour. Local actors are the experts who provide behind-the-scenes filming details and entertainment knowledge, according to Alan Locher, the company’s director of public relations and marketing.
“Our three-hour bus tour takes groups through 30 locations in Boston neighborhoods, including Boston Common, also the name of an NBC sitcom in the ’90s and the home of scenes from ‘The Departed,’ ‘Ally McBeal’ and ‘Good Will Hunting.’ The bus tour features TV screens, where clips from movies and TV series are shown when you’re seeing those locations on the tour,” said Locher.
Other neighborhoods include Beacon Hill, the most filmed section of Boston with credits like “The Thomas Crown Affair”; Back Bay, with Victorian brownstones that made an ideal location for “Boondock Saints” and “Fever Pitch” South Boston, the largest Irish neighborhood in the city with credits such as “The Town,” “The Verdict” and “Mystic River”; and the North End, Boston’s Little Italy, featured in “National Treasure.”
The Boston Movie Mile Walking Tour, featuring 30 locations, offers guests the opportunity to sit on the famous park bench from “Good Will Hunting,” have a drink at the original “Cheers,” see one of Jack Nicholson’s mob hangouts in “The Departed” and discover the street of the “Blown Away” car crash.