In Hollywood films, it is not uncommon for one city to stand in for another, or for a particular landmark or building to make an appearance in a movie set thousands of miles away. But in the case of Savannah, the city’s distinctive scenery, architecture and history make it pop off the screen in such a way that it could never be a mere supporting character.Many of its locations are instantly recognizable to locals and even those who have just visited or passed through. For this reason, films set in “The Hostess City of the South” are noteworthy for their settings as much as their stories. Here are four big-budget flicks that took advantage of Southern hospitality when they set up shop in Savannah:
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) – Based on the best-selling book by Gregory Berendt, the film focuses on the real-life murder trial of Savannah socialite Jim Williams, who was accused of killing his (much younger) lover. The sweeping story focuses on many of the city’s upper crust eccentrics – particularly Williams (played by Kevin Spacey), who lived in the Mercer House, a mansion formerly owned by songwriter Johnny Mercer. (Many of Mercer’s best-known songs are included on the movie’s soundtrack, including “Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive,” sung by the film’s director, Clint Eastwood.) Many Savannah locations were used during the film, including the Mercer House, Forsyth Park, Churchill’s Pub & Restaurant, the Tomochichi Federal Building and the Bonaventure Cemetery. Due to the popularity of the book, the “Bird Girl” statue pictured on the cover – originally named “Little Wendy,” and which had stood in Bonaventure Cemetery for decades – had to be moved. (It now resides in the Jepson Center for the Arts.) For the film, a fiberglass replica was created.
- The Gingerbread Man (1998) – Hot on the heels of “Midnight” came another Savannah-set thriller, likewise helmed by a legendary director (in this case, Robert Altman). Unlike other films based on the work of John Grisham, “The Gingerbread Man” was not adapted from one of his novels; instead, it is an original screenplay by Grisham, reworked from an unpublished manuscript. The film’s writer is listed as “Al Hayes,” a pseudonym that Grisham used. The movie – which stars Kenneth Branagh, Embeth Davidtz, Robert Downey Jr., Daryl Hannah and Robert Duvall – was shot all around Savannah, including Tybe Island, Talmadge Bridge, Riverstreet, the Savannah Riverfront, Savannah City Hall, Forsyth Park and the U.S. Customs House.
- Something to Talk About (1995) – A romantic comedy-drama that stars Julia Roberts and Dennis Quaid, the film was a modest hit, but today is best remembered as screenwriter Callie Khouri’s follow-up to the massively successful “Thelma & Louise.” While the city of Savannah is not as prominently featured as it is in other films, a few key locations are. The Six Pence Pub, a Bull Street staple, is the setting for a key scene in the movie in which Roberts confronts her cheating husband; the scene ultimately spills out onto the street. Other Savannah scenes/locations that made their way into the final print include the Junior League meeting at the Noble Hardee House, St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital, the corner of Bull and Bryant Streets and a residence at the corner of West Jones and Lincoln Streets – seen as the main character’s home.
- Magic Mike XXL (2015) – Although it wasn’t nearly as successful as its predecessor this male-stripper sequel lets it all hang out in its road trip plotting. The Kings of Tampa hit the road en route to a final blowout in Myrtle Beach, with a key stop in Savannah. There, the men hit a stripper convention with expected results. Savannah locations seen in the film include Tybee Island, the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center, Savannah Technical College and a “gentleman’s club” located on Montgomery Cross Road. In addition, in one scene, Savannah – specifically, Whitaker Street – stands in for Tampa, where the first film was set (and shot).
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