From The Revenant and Django Unchained to Fargo and Dances with Wolves… Uncover the Real America landscapes that have inspired award-winning performances on the big screen
As Leonardo DiCaprio waits to see if his performance in the Montana-set epic The Revenant finally bags him his highly anticipated ‘Best Actor’ Oscar, the Hollywood spotlight is once again shining on the Real America states of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
The Real America has long been a popular choice for movies set in and against the backdrop of big sky landscapes and artsy off-the-beaten-track towns and cities. Here’s how to follow in the footsteps of the A-listers:
Wyoming: From the towering peaks of Grand Teton National Park and the geysers and waterfalls of Yellowstone National Park to the grasslands of the high plains and the red desert, the ‘Wild West’ state of Wyoming is a movie maker’s dream. Last autumn, the animated family-friendly movie The Good Dinosaur featured jaw-dropping colourful landscapes inspired by Wyoming’s rugged countryside – and as 2016 begins, the state continues to feature heavily in a range of new movie releases. Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is a western set in the middle of a Wyoming winter and is nominated for three Academy Awards, including ‘Best Cinematography’. It’s the second time Tarantino has used Wyoming as a backdrop; in 2012, he filmed Django Unchained in Jackson Hole, which incidentally is a popular home base for several Hollywood celebs keen to escape the paparazzi, including Harrison Ford and Sandra Bullock. As 2016 continues, so do the Wyoming-set film releases. Don’t miss Forsaken, a brooding western set in 1872 Wyoming, featuring father-son duo Donald and Kiefer Sutherland.
Montana: Inspired by the real life story of a South Dakota native, The Revenant tells the tale of legendary explorer Hugh Glass’ (Leonardo DiCaprio) epic adventure across the American wilderness and his quest for survival against all odds. Set throughout the ‘big sky’ state of Montana and filmed in locations including the town of Libby, the film has scored big at the Golden Globes and is nominated for a whopping 12 Academy Awards including ‘Best Picture’. The film is just the latest in a string of highly successful flicks to pay homage to the state. Robert Redford’s 1992 directed coming-of-age tale A River Runs Through It starred Brad Pitt and was nominated for three Oscars, taking home the golden statue for ‘Best Cinematography’ in 1993. Travel to Missoula in western Montana to see the city and surrounding landscapes that featured in the movie. To uncover the wilds of Montana and retrace some of Meryl Streep’s adventures in The River Wild, head for the Kootenai River near Libby. Go white-water rafting here with an experienced guide and discover one of the world’s largest ‘natural zoos’ in nearby Glacier National Park, which also featured in What Dreams May Come and Forrest Gump. To stay near the park, spend a few nights in the picturesque town of Whitefish.
South Dakota: When it comes to ‘cleaning up’ at the Oscars, Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves certainly took the trophy – seven of them in fact – and its success at the box office was equally impressive with the film raking in just shy of $185 million following its release in 1991. Filmed almost entirely in South Dakota (with a few scenes also captured in Wyoming), the film offers a brilliant representation of the post-Civil War era as Americans journeyed to the west and discovered Native American tribes along the way. A must watch for any film buffs keen to check out the awe-inspiring landscapes of Badlands National Park, it also filmed on location in the state capital of Pierre, Rapid City and picturesque Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills. On a visit here, don’t miss Roughlock Falls, widely considered to be one of the most beautiful locations in the region. An extra special recommended itinerary stop is at Fort Hays, just outside Rapid City, where the original film set and props can be viewed and visitors can experience a taste of ‘Wild West’ life with a chuck wagon-style dinner. For movie fans touring South Dakota, 1998 blockbuster Armageddon also used Badlands National Park as the filming location for the asteroid surface scenes!
North Dakota: For the filming of their 1996 neo-noir black comedy crime thriller Fargo, the Coen brothers chose the state of North Dakota and filmed in locations including Bathgate, Grafton and Grand Forks. Starring William H. Macy, the true story-inspired film scooped ‘Best Director’ at the Cannes Film Festival for Joel Coen and seven Academy Award nominations, with two wins for ‘Best Actress’ for Frances McDormand and ‘Best Writing (Original Screenplay)’. A critical and commercial success, in 2006 the Library of Congress determined that the film was ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’ and inducted it into the United States National Film Registry for preservation. In 1998, it was also named one of the ‘100 greatest American movies of all time’ by The American Film Institute. To see the original wood chipper used in the movie, stop by the Fargo and Moorhead Visitors Centre. While Fargo celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, watch out for the upcoming release of Valley of Bones, which is set amidst the North Dakota Badlands and was filmed entirely in western North Dakota, in and around Bowman, Amidon and Marmarth in under 30 days.
Make like the movie stars and discover the Real America:
My America Holiday (0203 393 2476 / www.myamericaholiday.co.uk) has a 16-night package to the Real America from £1,875 per person. Departing on 22 September 2016, the price includes return Delta flights from London Heathrow to Rapid City, South Dakota (returning from Jackson, Wyoming), 16 nights’ accommodation (three nights in Rapid City, two nights in Medora, North Dakota, nine nights in Montana with stops in Billings, Missoula, Whitefish, Butte and West Yellowstone and two nights in Jackson, Wyoming) in 3 star plus hotels on a room-only basis and car hire for the duration. The price is based on two adults travelling, sharing accommodation. To book, call 0208 003 6081 or visit www.myamericaholiday.co.uk.
For more information on each state, visit www.realamerica.co.uk