David Abolafia

Lights, Camera, Portland: A Filmography

David Abolafia


The city of Portland, Oregon, is known by many nicknames, including “Rip City” and “Little Beirut.” However, given the number of big-budget movies that have been filmed within its environs, those names could easily be changed to “Studio City” and “Little Hollywood.”

  • Short Circuit (1986) — After a lightning bolt zaps a robot named Number 5, the lovable machine starts to think he’s human and escapes the lab. Hot on his trail is his designer, who hopes to get to Number 5 before the military does. In the meantime, a spunky animal lover mistakes the robot for an alien and takes him in, teaching her new guest about life on Earth. This popular family film stars Steve Guttenberg, Ally Sheedy and Fisher Stevens. It was filmed in various Oregon locations, including West Portland, Astoria and the Columbia River Gorge.
  • My Own Private Idado (1991) – Keanu Reeves and the late River Phoenix star in this haunting tale about two young street hustlers: Mike, a sensitive narcoleptic who dreams of the mother who abandoned him, and Scott, the wayward son of the mayor of Portland and the object of Mike’s desire. Navigating a volatile world of junkies, thieves, and johns, Mike takes Scott on a quest along the grungy streets and open highways of the Pacific Northwest, in search of an elusive place called home. Phoenix and director Gus Van Sant picked up a number of awards for this indie feature, which is loosely based on Shakespeare’s “Henry IV.”

“My Own Private Idaho” Trivia

River Phoenix was a big fan of “The Simpsons”  and suggested its inclusion in the film. “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, who is from Portland, let the filmmakers use footage from the show for free.

  • Free Willy (1993) – Ordered to clean up the graffiti he painted at a marine theme park, a troubled young boy unexpectedly bonds with a killer whale on exhibit. But when the park owner threatens to kill the orca, the boy must hatch a plan to rescue his aquatic friend. The film was shot almost entirely in Oregon, with Portland’s Burnside Skatepark a key filming location.
  • Pay It Forward (2000) – In this gentle drama, a young boy named Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) responds to a school assignment with a plan to help three people who will, in turn, help three more, and so on, in an ever-widening circle. But Trevor touches more people than he expected, including his abused mother (Helen Hunt), his physically and emotionally scarred teacher (Kevin Spacey) and a journalist (Jay Mohr) who’s investigating the plan. Although the movie was largely shot in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the bridge scene was filmed in Portland.
  • Mr. Brooks (2007) – Kevin Costner plays against type, starring as a man caught in a deadly downward spiral, and at war with his own alter ego. Demi Moore co-stars as a sharp-witted police detective whose passion for her job attracts the attention of the killer. This crime drama takes place in Portland and was largely filmed within the city.
  • Bandits (2001) — Two bank robbers battle over the affections of a housewife they kidnapped before one of their big heists in this quirky love story. Gaining notoriety as the “Sleepover Bandits,” the partners force a reality TV host to cover their 15 minutes of fame. Filmed in and around Portland (particularly the Broadway Bridge), this quirky love story stars Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett.
  • Batman Forever (1995) – Director Joel Schumacher’s interpretation of Batman has new villains and a new sidekick as millionaire Bruce Wayne goes up against psychotic Two-Face and the Riddler, who have nefarious plans for Gotham City. Joined by Robin, who wants revenge on Two-Face, Batman pursues the baddies while being seduced by Dr. Chase Meridian. Val Kilmer’s only appearance as Batman; he stars alongside Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman, Jim Carrey and Chris O’Donnell. Among the film’s many shooting locations is Corbett Hill Circle in Portland.
  • He’s Just Not That Into You (2009) – An all-star ensemble of characters deals with the pitfalls of love and human interaction in this big-screen adaptation of Greg Behrendt’s best-selling book. The A-list cast includes Jennifer Aniston, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Connelly, Ben Affleck and Scarlett Johansson. Although the movie is set in Baltimore, it was also shot in California, England and Oregon, including scenes in Portland and Madras.
  • Twilight (2008) — When Bella Swan moves in with her father, she starts school and meets the reclusive Edward Cullen, who reveals himself to be a 108-year-old vampire. But in spite of Edward’s repeated cautions, she can’t help but fall in love with him. Although this wildly popular film series (and novels on which it’s based) is set in Washington, it was filmed in numerous locations around Oregon, including Portland’s Madison High School.

“Twilight” Trivia

As soon as Robert Pattinson was cast as Edward, he moved to Oregon and began working on his character, both physically and mentally. He worked out five hours a day with a trainer: learning to fight, play baseball and do stunts. He also had to learn to drive and get an Oregon driver’s license.

  • Into the Wild (2007) – Christopher McCandless is a young man gives up everything – including his trust fund and ties to a seemingly stable family – to lead a solitary life in the wild, eschewing convention to trek across Alaska’s harsh and unforgiving terrain. Written and directed by Sean Penn, based on the nonfiction book by Jon Krakauer, the movie’s filming locations reflect Christopher’s trek, with stops in Portland and other locations around Oregon, including Reed College and George Fox University.

To book your own scenic tour of Portland, or any of our other beautifully photogenic destinations, give us a call at (888) 269-0182, Mon – Fri 9am to 5pm.

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