The film industry is gaining momentum in the Magic City. But Birmingham’s movie roots actually go back quite a ways. Here are some movies you may or may not know about that were filmed in the Birmingham area, including Stay Hungry with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Union with Virginia Newcomb.
Shot on location in Birmingham in 1975, Stay Hungry features Jeff Bridges, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sally Field.
Based on the 1972 novel by Charles Gaines, the movie tells the story of a young Birmingham scion who becomes involved in a shady real-estate deal.
Karen Graffeo, professional photographer and professor of art and director of photography concentration at the University of Montevallo was Sally Field’s stunt double in the film.
“I taught Arnold [Schwarzenegger] and Jeff Bridges how to ski jump,” Graffeo said. “The movie is a hoot!”
Graffeo also added, “I wish I still had every dress and T-shirt I wore getting to double as Sally Field.”
During the making of the film, Graffeo said there was a great curiosity as to how to best express “Southerness”.
“My opinion is that you cannot overdo it,” Graffeo said. “‘Southerness’, like the 1970s, is only done with great capacity for excess.”
What was it like working with “Ahhh-nold” and Jeff Bridges?
“During the experience, I was well aware that Jeff Bridges was an actor and a person with deep capacity for empathy and I expected his greatest success,” Graffeo said. “I, however, did not expect Arnold to become governor of California.”
Birmingham locations that appear in the film include:
- “The Blake Manor” (a house on Mountain Brook Parkway)
- 20th Street N.
- Country Club of Birmingham
- Boutwell Auditorium
- Lyric Theatre
Directed by Spike Lee, 4 Little Girls is a 1997 documentary about the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.
Along with covering the lives, deaths and effects on the families of the four girls killed in the bombing, the film features portions of interviews with relatives, friends and associates of the girls as well as some of the politicians and civil rights activities involved in 1963.
The film received an Academy Award (Oscar) nomination for “Best Documentary, Features” and Emmy nominations for “Outstanding Non-Fiction Special”.
Released in 2013, Chadwick Boseman starred in “42” where he portrayed MLB legend Jackie Robinson. The movie filmed in the Birmingham area at Rickwood Field.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation Kazakhstan
Does the movie “Borat” ring a bell? Starring Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat, this movie hit theaters in 2006 and had filming locations all over the Birmingham area.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly filmed this movie at the one and only Talladega Super Speedway in Talladega. Released in 2006, it’s easy to sum up what this movie is about based on the title alone.
Scripted and directed by Lexi Alexander, Lifted is a feature film that tells the story of an R&B singer who pursues success in music despite difficulties.
Shooting for the film began in 2009 in Irondale, at the Alys Stephens Center and at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo.
Recent Filmings in Birmingham
Do you remember a few months back in May when John Travolta sightings were popping up around Birmingham? The reason for this was due to his role in the film “Moose”. (Also starring Ana Golja and Devon Sawa. Devon Sawa? 90’s kids take a moment to swoon like you used to!)
Directed by Fred Durst (yep, former frontman of the band Limp Bizkit), the film’s plot is about a rabid film fan who stalks his favorite action hero, ultimately destroying the star’s life.
“Moose” is said to hit theaters in 2019.
(FYI: “Moose” isn’t the only movie Travolta has filmed in Alabama. In 2017 he also appeared in “Trading Paint”, which was filmed in the Bessemer/Hueytown area.)
Get ready for a wild chase through the streets of Birmingham in the movie “Live”. Starring Aaron Eckhardt and Courtney Eaton, the movie was filmed over 25 days in and around Birmingham this past May/June.
The Plot: Disgraced cop Kyle Penny goes on a hunt to rescue the police commissioner’s kidnapped daughter who is trapped somewhere in the city with only 80 minutes to live.
Virginia Newcomb stars alongside Jay Galloway and Tucker Meek in “Union”. Based on a true story, a woman disguises herself as her dead brother in order to survive the Confederate Ranks during the Civil War.
Virginia Newcomb is an Actor/Film Maker who is known for Peacock (2010), The Office and Reed Morano‘s episode of Halt and Catch Fire. But did you know she was raised just a skip away from Birmingham in Alabaster?
While Newcomb has spent many of her acting/producing years in cities known for their prominence in the film industry like Los Angeles, Newcomb most recent roles have brought her back to the south. (So exciting!)
Her upcoming roles include the A24 produced film by Daniel Scheinert (Swiss Army Man) and Whitney Hamilton’s indie drama, Union (as previously mentioned).
When asked why so many movies being filmed in Birmingham recently, Newcomb has a lot to share on the topic.
“I’d say what is really nourishing the film industry in Birmingham now is the deep well of talent being tapped and the uniquely varied resources,” Newcomb said.
“Money makes sense on paper, but the larger movement is towards a more sustainable, conscious and communal industry. For me, the most exciting component of the next phase is how that will impact the stories that come out of the south.”
Newcomb also added that while bigger budgets help sustain local crews, there’s a strong need to “encourage and support our creatives so they keep creating here.”
What are your thoughts on movies filmed in the Magic City?