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On location: Movies filmed in Alberta

Posted on August 8, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

When it comes to iconic filming locations in North America, Los Angeles and New York City are often the first cities that come to mind.

Hollywood has been the longstanding epicentre for film production, often thought to be synonymous with the film industry at large, with New York city home to some of the most iconoclastic, culture-defining entertainment of the past century. In recent decades, the Canadian cities of Toronto and Vancouver have become beacons of indie film and even larger scale productions for both television and film, and while southern Alberta has gained quite a bit of traction as a desirable production location, the region has been featured in some surprising blockbuster hits, and Hollywood classics over the years.

There have been plenty of well-known projects that have filmed in southern Alberta in recent years, particularly in Kananaskis country, a desirable backdrop notably visible in movies such as The Revenant, Bourne Legacy, Inception, and many more. Fort Macleod’s vintage small-town feel has also made the small town a recognizable filming location in movies such as Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a reboot of the 1980’s classic, Brokeback Mountain, and the 2014 science fiction film set mostly in outer space, Interstellar.

While also filmed in Iceland and Los Angeles, Interstellar includes several scenes shot right here in southern Alberta, including one scene with Matthew McConaughey filmed at Chin Lakes, just 20 minutes southwest of the town of Taber. In some frames, the viewer can catch a glimpse of one of southern Alberta’s many wind farms, as wind turbines are visible in the frame off to the right. The iconic Empress theatre in Fort Macleod also makes an appearance in the film.

When it comes to recognizable Alberta Landscapes, the prairies are often the first topography to come to mind. However, you don’t have to look very closely in the 2006 family adventure flick, RV, to find the distinct hoodoo formations found in Alberta’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, Writing on Stone located in Alberta’s Badlands. The sacred site’s spires, sculpted by erosion, are clearly visible in several scenes. The movie featured Broadway star Kristin Chenowith, Cheryl Hines, and Jeff Daniels. Most notably the late, Robin Williams starred as the lead family man, navigating his disappointed family through a series of unfortunate mishaps during their RV vacation. Williams was said to have frequented several businesses in the region, particularly in Milk River, where dozens of locals reported to have conversed with the charismatic star during production. Sections of road in Lethbridge County near Highway 23-3A are also visible throughout the film.

Widely considered one of the greatest films ever made by one of the world’s most renowned filmmakers, Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film “Dr. Strangelove: or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” has an interesting connection to one of Alberta’s most marketable tourist destinations. The movie was one of 25 films first selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Film Registry, for the movie’s historical and cultural significance in its satirization of the Cold War.

At first the connection to Alberta isn’t obvious. The film was the last of Kubrick’s to be filmed in black and white, however, the master filmmaker used southern Alberta’s Banff National Park for several aerial shots, including the bomb run sequence with actor Slim Pickens.

In terms of notable productions, the recent smashing success of the video game turned t.v. series “The Last of Us” saw southern Alberta’s empty prairie backdrop star as a character unto itself. Albertans looked forward to the myriad of recognizable locations each week, from Lethbridge’s one-of-a-kind train bridge, to the rural back country roads in Lethbridge County, and other easter eggs in Calgary, High River and Foothills County.

While there are no major blockbusters currently filming in Alberta, the Province is being marketed as an ideal place to shoot, and it will be interesting to see where Alberta shows up next on the big screen.

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