You’ve seen the film; now experience the place
Time to roll out the flying red carpet: Thursday’s Academy Award nominations and Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony signal the launch of Hollywood’s awards season and give globetrotting viewers another incentive to pack their bags.
Granted, many of this year’s best-picture nominees come up short on scenery. Few would be inspired to visit Iran or Pakistan after watching Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated thrillers Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. The lush, largely computer-generated cinematography notwithstanding, Life of Pi‘s harrowing shipwreck won’t generate a wave of bookings for ocean crossings.
And while Virginia’s tourism office may tout the fact that Steven Spielberg’s Lincolnwas filmed in Richmond, Petersburg and other Old Dominion locations, hoop skirts and stovepipe hats get more screen time than landscapes in the mostly interior drama.
But among Oscar or Golden Globe contenders, these are practically guaranteed to spark wanderlust:
‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,’ India
The plot: This Golden Globe nominee for best picture, musical or comedy revolves around British seniors who decamp to a hotel in Jaipur, India, with hopes of inexpensively outsourcing their retirement. The hotel (run by a cheerfully inept Dev Patel) turns out to be much less than advertised, but India proves to be inspiring.
The place: Director John Madden told Fodors.com he chose Rajasthan because “there’s something about the chaos and the jumble and the madness of it that seemed a very good context for the story.” Or, as retiree Judi Dench explains on screen: “India hits you like a wave. If you resist, you will be knocked down. But if you dive into it, you will be all right.”
Reel life meets real life: Ravla Khempur, a former tribal chieftain’s palace turned equestrian hotel about an hour outside the lakeside city of Udaipur, served as the stand-in for the dilapidated Marigold Hotel.
‘Beasts of the Southern Wild,’ Louisiana
The plot: Nominated for a best-picture Oscar and shot with non-professional local actors along the ecologically threatened fringes of southern Louisiana, this fairy-tale-like film celebrates the tenacity and resiliency of bayou residents after a devastating storm.
The place: “When you look at the map, you can see America kind of crumble off into the sinews down in the gulf where the land is getting eaten up,” director Benh Zetlin told TheNew York Times. “I was really interested in these roads that go all the way down to the bottom of America and what was at the end of them,” he said of the tiny Terrebonne Parish communities of Pointe-aux-Chenes and Isle de Jean Charles.
Reel life meets real life: Best-actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, who was 6 when she played Hushpuppy, hails from Houma, the self-described “heart of Lousiana’s wetlands.” From here, it’s about a 45-minute drive to Isle de Jean Charles via Island Road, the only strip of land amid miles of open water.
‘Downton Abbey,’ Highclere Castle and Brampton, England
The plot: PBS’ smashingly successful series of love, longing and pheasant shoots in upper-crust Edwardian England, now in its third season, is up for yet another award: a Golden Globe nomination for drama series.
The place: Sure, we’re smitten with the Grantham family’s lavish costumes and the valet Thomas’ seemingly infinite capacity for deviousness. But Downton Abbey‘s biggest appeal is the stately old pile itself — aka Highclere Castle, a 19th-century, 300-room estate about 60 miles west of London.
Reel life meets real life: Highclere is open to visitors on select days from March 30 through mid-September; adult admission (which must be booked in advance) is $18.Abbey addicts also can get a fix in the Oxfordshire village of Brampton, 40 miles north of Highclere. Many of the show’s town exteriors are filmed there, including the church, hospital, pub and Matthew Crawley’s home.
‘Moonrise Kingdom,’ Rhode Island
The plot: During the summer of 1965, two lovestruck 12-year-olds try to run away from home — or as far as their idyllic little New England island will let them — while parents Frances McDormand and Bill Murray and local police chief Bruce Willis cope with the fallout.
The place: “We were all over Rhode Island” to shoot this quirky Golden Globe nominee, director Wes Anderson told the Boston Globe — “which is not saying much.” Filming was based in Newport and Middletown; most of the action took place in the village of Jamestown on Conanicut Island, with Rockville’s Camp Yawgoog used for the scout headquarters sequences.
Reel life meets real life: Cast members stayed at Newport’s Vanderbilt Grace Hotel during filming, and also spent downtime on the panoramic deck of the Hotel Viking’s Top of Newport bar.
‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,’ Morocco and the Scottish Highlands
The plot: Directed by Lasse Hallström, this surprise Golden Globe nominee for best picture, musical or comedy stars Ewan McGregor as an uptight British fisheries expert and Emily Blunt as a consultant charged with fulfilling her wealthy client’s improbable dream of introducing fly-fishing to the Middle East.
The place: While the River Spey and other Scottish Highland locations may not look as gobsmackingly gorgeous as Montana did in the more famous fish tale A River Runs Through It, the contrast between Scottish streams and the barren hills of south-central Morocco (which subbed for Yemen) is intoxicating.
Reel life meets real life: Ouarzazate, Morocco, nicknamed the “door to the desert,” has been a favored filming location since David Lean used it as a backdrop in the 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia. Among other travel-centric movies shot in the region:The Sheltering Sky, Babel and The Man Who Would Be King.