Kevin Young has served as contributing writer 2009-2017.
Not long ago, it was uncommon for Hollywood to come a-calling to Charleston. That has changed a bit. Since the City Paper’s birth in the 9-7, there have been quite a few movies and TV shows that have been made in our beautiful city, thanks to its unique personality (or what’s left of it). Here, in no particular order, are 20 productions that we’d like to randomly mention:
The Hunley: We have got a lot of history here in this town. Like that well-known story of the crew of the manually propelled submarine CSS Hunley during the siege of Charleston of 1864. The heroism of the nine men on board was the focus of the Donald Sutherland/Armand Assante TNT movie.
The Tempest: A pre-Grey’s Anatomy/post-Bride of Chucky Katherine Heigl gallivanted about as a Civil War-era Miranda Prosper in this TV movie take on Shakespeare’s classic.
Cold Mountain: Once a regular at AC’s Bar And Grill while working on the Pate Brother’s Deceiver, Renee Zellweger returned to Charleston to star in Anthony Minghella’s bloated Civil War romance alongside Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. Dramatic moments and orchestral swells ensued.
Leo: Originally shot here under the title Leopold Bloom, this film focused on a pen-pal relationship between an unstable young boy and a man recently released from prison. It didn’t do too well. Still, everyone’s favorite babysitter, Elisabeth Shue, was in it. That’s kinda cool.
Army Wives: When Lifetime brought this show to our fair city, it helped cement Charleston as a place in location managers’ scouting itinerary. Over the course of the show’s seven seasons, we followed the lives of the spouses of soldiers fighting abroad. For quite a few years, the cast and crew were a part of the local landscape.
Southern Charm: A reality TV series that happened in 2013 and still happens to this day. There isn’t much to add that hasn’t been said by better writers. Thank you, Bravo.
Top Chef: Bravo also homed in our food talents when they decided to focus the majority of their 14th season of the show here with local chefs Emily Hahn and Jamie Lynch as two of the contestants. Padma Lakshmi sightings were a plenty last summer.
The Legend of Bagger Vance: In 1999, Charleston was one of many South Carolina locales utilized for this Matt Damon/Will Smith film about a white golfer getting an assist from a mystical black caddy. It was wince-inducing then. It’s wince-inducing now.
O: Tim Blake Nelson directed this modern take of Bill Shakespeare’s Othello. Mekhi Phifer and Julia Stiles starred in this retelling which takes place at a prep school that looked strikingly similar to Bishop England.
Reckless: Shot throughout downtown, this TV series came and went. For some reason, the story of “a gorgeous Yankee litigator and a Southern city attorney” who “struggle to hide their intense attraction while clashing over a police sex scandal that threatens to implode the city” didn’t last.
Vice Principals: Following up their successful Eastbound and Down series, Jody Hill and Danny McBride shot the first two seasons of their comedy about rivals — Neal (McBride) and Lee (the vastly underrated Walton Goggins) — competing for the same job at a high school throughout Charleston. The second season starts up in September.
The Sinner: Having premiered last week, the commercials for this eight-episode series, shot around Summerville, have been everywhere. Jessica Biel stars as a woman trying to figure out why she got stabby.
The Patriot: Future South Park punchline Mel Gibson starred in this 1776-set drama, directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day), about a father joining the rebellion after a sadistic British colonel kills his son. The crew chose locations like Cypress Gardens, Middleton Place, and Rock Hill to lend their $100 million period piece some authenticity.
The Corndog Man: While often confused with Wilford Brimley, Noble Willingham is known mostly for being one of Walker, Texas Ranger’s buddies. In the midst of filming the series, he took a break to shoot this uncomfortable low-budget piece. Set in rural South Carolina, The Corndog Man is simply about a redneck boat salesman being terrorized by a man claiming to be his long-lost son. One cameo of note was by a local legend — the late Bryan Seabrook — better known to many as Ms. Africa.
Megan Leavey: Based on a true story of Marine Corporal Megan Leavey, the film detailed the relationship between herself and the military combat dog Rex as they went on over 100 missions together during their deployment in Iraq. Charleston was one of six locations in this year’s tearjerker.
Mr. Mercedes: Premiering Wed. Aug. 9, this series, based on a Stephen King novel, follows a detective trying to track down a psycho in a Mercedes. Apparently, the master of scary things was out and about, as well, making our city a little less holy.
Major League 3: Back to the Minors: In 1997, the RiverDogs were still settling into their new digs at The Joe. In its first year open, the stadium also played a major role in this second (and final) sequel to the funny baseball comedy, Major League. Great locations, mediocre movie. The underrated Walton Goggins was in this as well.
The Notebook: Some movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel about a poor boy and a rich girl falling in love and said love standing the enduring test of time. Ever heard of it? For a moment, the production overtook parts of King Street. Unfortunately, I don’t think either of the two young leads have ever gone on to anything else of note.
Dear John: Partially shot on Sullivan’s Island, this drama involved a blossoming relationship between a soldier named Channing Tatum and a college student named Amanda Seyfried while he is on leave. Yet another Nicholas Sparks romance adapted for the screen starring actors that also faded into obscurity.
The Afflicted: In 2010, Kane Hodder (a.k.a. Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th series) visited Charleston to make a disturbing horror flick. I just like the fact that Jason Voorhees visited Charleston.
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Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.