Lights, camera, Oklahoma! Our state (and county) in Hollywood

by Charles Gerian

Everyone who's come near Blackwell knows two famous tidbits about the area: hide and seek champion Amelia Earhart allegedly stayed at the Larkin Hotel in Blackwell's golden age boom during one of her expeditions, and that scenes from the 1996 thriller TWISTER were filmed just outside of town.

TWISTER had the brunt of it's Northern Oklahoma filming done in Wakita -about 40 miles east where a “Twister Museum” sits to commemorate the Grant County town's Hollywood spotlight- but a lot of rural footage of Kay County areas made it into the shoot as well, which might make readers curious: what else has been filmed in our great state?

NewsOK recently had a fantastic article about an Oklahoma-made film having it's appearance at the Sundance Film Festival. The film, “To The Stars” began production in March around Enid, Perry, Pond Creek, Wakita, Kremlin, and Hennessey, and is set in the 1960's as a coming-of-age story starring Tony Hale, Malin Akerman, Shea Whigham, Liana Liberato, and Kara Hayward. The article also mentions “Wildlife” which had also been filmed in Enid last year.

Everyone who went to school in Oklahoma, of course, knows that S.E. Hinton's novels “Rumble Fish” and “The Outsiders” were famously set in and around the Tulsa area and also received star-studded film adaptations, but let's look at maybe some lesser known pictures, shall we?

Kathryn Bigelow's (The Hurt Locker, Point Break) 1987 vampire thriller NEAR DARK had a lot of it's action filmed in unspecified country roads and streets in our great state. Oklahoma-born director Terrence Malik returned to his roots just a few years ago and filmed TO THE WONDER starring Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko in Bartlesville, Pawhuska, and Tulsa. Tulsa, arguably one of the more famous locales, also hosted Weird Al's cult-classic 1980's film UHF, the mid 90's John Travolta-starrer PHENOMENON, and 2010's THE KILLER INSIDE ME starring Casey Affleck and Jessica Alba.

Most of these films gained notoriety and followings, but Oklahoma's bid for Oscar gold came in 2012/13 with AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY which was filmed largely around Pawhuska and Bartlesville, picking up two Oscar nominations and Golden Globe noms (Best Actress, Supporting Actress). In 2015 the gritty indie film AMERICAN HONEY was filmed around Muskogee, Okmulgee, and Norman which many saw as Shua LaBeouf's artistic comeback and introduced audiences to Sasha Lane who will be appearing in the upcoming HELLBOY reboot. The hit Christian film I CAN ONLY IMAGINE, about the song of the same name, was also filmed in Oklahoma in the OKC area just last year.

One of my personal favorite films of all time, ELIZABETHTOWN, had a scene filmed at the Survivor Tree in the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum and at the Cherokee Trading Post & Travel Mart in Calumet.

Another wildly successful and iconic picture is RAIN MAN, the 1988 Best Picture winner starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise which had a crucial moment in the plot filmed in El Reno, and even a few shots from Guthrie. The iconic and Oscar-winning 1940's film THE GRAPES OF WRATH, directed by John Ford, is focused on an Oklahoma family moving westward after the decimating Dust Bowl and, as such, features the Beckham County Courthouse in Sayre during the Joad family's trip along Route 66.

Looking towards the future though, it was reported in late 2018 that legendary Oscar-winning filmmaker Martin Scorsese would be teaming with his frequent muse and collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio (fellow Oscar winner) to do a feature-film adaption of David Grann's novel KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON with Scorsese to direct and DiCaprio to star.

The true-crime story is “set in 1920s Oklahoma, where the Osage Nation discover oil under their land, only to find themselves being murdered, one by one. As the death toll rises, the newly created FBI takes up the case and unravels a chilling conspiracy and one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.”

Filming has been reported to commence “Spring 2019” in Osage County where the grizzly murders took place, so you never know, next time you head west to Pawhuska, Barnsdall, Shidler, Ponca just might be running into Leo DiCaprio himself.