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Hollywood has long strayed all over the globe in search of exotic locations. But more than a few times, the journey has taken moguls, stars and bit players just a few miles south to Orange County.
The movie industry has been doing it for decades, especially in recent years. That’s not LAX or any other big-city airport you see Tom Cruise moving through in “Jerry Maguire.” It’s John Wayne Airport. And when a small-town street was needed for “That Thing You Do!,” scouts didn’t send film crews into the Midwest. Tom Hanks and company ended up in Old Towne Orange, a ringer for Anyplace, U.S.A.
Makes sense. O.C. has some pretty nice vistas, and the traveling expenses are relatively slim. Just pack the equipment truck and tell the stars’ chauffeurs to plan on a 100-mile round trip.
Such practical thinking led to perhaps the most famous local shoot, when Roddy McDowall mugged at UC Irvine in the early ‘70s with other actors dressed as monkeys in “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.”
Several silent films also have roots here, including Cecil B. DeMille’s original 1923 version of “The Ten Commandments.” Dozens of extras done up as fleeing Israelites were called on to run through the Seal Beach surf.
Curious which other flicks had scenes with an Orange County label? Here’s a sampler of those available on video:
* Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars . . . “Apollo 13" (1995) is thick with images of the stars, but when not in the heavens, Tom Hanks and the other astronauts spend a lot of time on military bases preparing for their flight. A few of those official-looking scenes were shot at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station.
* No way I’m getting on that plane . . . “Rain Man” (1988) was about an idiot savant with a head for figures, like how many people have died in jet crashes. Dustin Hoffman’s character would travel only on foot, by car or train, so that’s what his brother, played by Tom Cruise, had to keep in mind when he sent him home at the movie’s end. The outdoor passage was filmed at the Santa Ana train station.
* This ain’t no Camelot . . . Jim Carrey took a professional stumble with his most recent comedy, “The Cable Guy” (1996), a strangely mean-spirited flick that unnerved as much as amused his ready fans. One of the funniest scenes, though, was captured at Medieval Times in Buena Park when Carrey takes his new best friend (Matthew Broderick) out for a night of jousting and eating with their hands.
* Take me out to the ballgame . . . The Big A in Anaheim has figured in a few movies, including “My Stepmother Is an Alien” (1988), starring Kim Basinger as an extraterrestrial and Dan Aykroyd as the human who loves her. The scene where the mismatched couple attend a game is brief. You can see more of the stadium in “Angels in the Outfield” (1994). In this one, Danny Glover stars as manager of the California Angels, who, with some celestial help, turns his team from a loser into a winner.
On thin ice . . . Another sports venue, the Pond of Anaheim, figures big-time in “D2: The Mighty Ducks” (1994), that rah-rah Disney flick about overachieving kids who discover that they’re tough enough, at least while playing junior-league hockey. Emilio Estevez, who’s made a career out of Ducking, plays the spunky coach who brings the best out in the boys.
Riding the asphalt . . . To make “Gleaming the Cube,” the 1989 release about a skateboarder (Christian Slater) devoted to spinning his wheels while searching for the bad guys who murdered his brother, the cast visited several O.C. locales. Among them were the John Wayne Airport, a motel near Disneyland and the orange groves on the Irvine Ranch.
Eyes front and center . . . Clint Eastwood plays a hard (are there any others?) Marine drill sergeant in “Heartbreak Ridge” (1986). The bar where Eastwood and others down beer, look angry, fight and generally get into mischief is the famous Swallow’s Inn in San Juan Capistrano.
No talking . . . Mel Brooks’ “Silent Movie” (1976) features Brooks as a silent-movie producer trying to make a comeback. A scene where Paul Newman and Brooks chase each other in wheelchairs was shot at UC Irvine.
Several scenes with McDowall in “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” also took advantage of UCI, mainly for what was considered its futuristic look back in 1972 when the film hit theaters.
The war to end all wars . . . “All Quiet on the Western Front,” a true classic, was one of the first movies to present an unglorified vision of war. The World War I battle scenes were considered shockingly authentic back in the ‘30s, and they’re still affecting. Passages where star Lew Ayres and others fight from trenches were captured on a then-undeveloped patch of Corona del Mar.
Sand in my sandals . . . One of the grandest epics of the silent era was DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments,” featuring almost forgotten stars including Richard Dix and Rod La Rocque. The movie isn’t all biblical. It shifts from the Old Testament to a modern-day story about two brothers, one good, the other bad. The decision to mingle two tales and different eras was considered fairly adventurous in the early ‘20s.