Hollywood and West Virginia

Hollywood and West Virginia

Hollywood and West Virginia

West Virginia, not famously known for its Hollywood style, has been an award-winning filmmaking state and a place where stars are born.   

Through the years, we have had our share of the glitz and glam right here in the Mountain State we call home.  West Virginia has undeniably awesome sites with natural features and settings. This state can have small-town vibes but look in the right places, and it can also feel like the big city.  

Let me share some fun facts about West Virginia and Hollywood. There have been a few curtain calls you may know, and some that may surprise you.   

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) was filmed in Clay County, WV. This thriller is about a young FBI newbie that has been tasked to extract and receive help of an already incarcerated, cannibalistic killer to catch a serial killer who skins his victims. The film stars two of my all-time Hollywood favorites: Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. 

Primal Fear (1996) starred Richard Gere and the great Edward Norton and was filmed in McDowell County, WV. This is an excellent movie about an altar boy accused of murdering a priest, and the truth may surprise you in the end. 

Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts starred in The Glass Castle (2017). The drama was also filmed in McDowell County, WV and shares the story of a young girl growing up in a dysfunctional family with an eccentric mother and alcoholic father. The film explores children’s imaginations as a distraction to a life of poverty. This is a good movie, but it tugged a bit too hard on my heartstrings.   

The Deer Hunter (1978) is a drama starring more great actors: Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken. Filmed in Follansbee and Weirton, WV. This film depicts the impact of the Vietnam War in the lives of friends in a small steel mill town. 

The Night of the Hunter (1955) is categorized as crime, drama, and thriller. It was written and directed by Charles Laughton and was filmed in Moundsville, WV. Shelley Winters plays a widow who has no idea how dangerous the criminal man is she’s involved with. This true crime is about serial killer Harry Powers, who was hanged in 1932 in the West Virginia State Penitentiary. I have not seen this, but plan to now that I know about it! 

True stories, you say?  

Watch The Mothman Prophecies (2002). Although filmed in Pittsburgh, Pa., there are several films about this story. In this film, Richard Gere plays a reporter investigating in Point Pleasant, WV, in the winter of 1966, where two young couples ran erratically from the woods, claiming they’d seen a terrifying creature. These couples reported to the sheriff this creature appeared human but with 10-foot wings and glowing red eyes. I don’t know what I think about this story, but it is obvious the filmmakers must have been too terrified to stay in Point Pleasant to actually film where this creature resides and felt safer a bit further away in Pittsburgh. 

The list goes on.  

Matewan (1987), written and directed by John Sayles, brings James Earl Jones to the big screen in this historical drama filmed at the New River Gorge in Fayette County, WV. No better choice for filming, as this storyline is about a labor union organizer that comes to a small mining community harassed by a mining company. 

Super 8 (2011). Starring in this thriller, Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler filmed at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport and Weirton, New Cumberland, New Manchester and Follansbee, WV, utilizing some local small businesses including DeStefano’s Spaghetti House & Restaurant and the Marland Heights Deli. 

Many documentaries have been filmed in West Virginia. Among the state’s notable documentaries is The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005). The film was written and directed by Jeff Feuerzeig and the star, Daniel Johnston, plays the role of a depressed singer and songwriter.   

True to our coal mining state is The Last Mountain (2011). This documentary is about a coal mining company in a small community filmed in the Appalachia Mountains of West Virginia where they fight for the future of energy. 

Another documentary is Still Bill (2009). This film features Bill Withers, Clarence Avant, and Corey Glover and was filmed in Slab Fork, Raleigh County, WV, which is also the birth home of Mr. Bill Withers. The film lets us see the world of soul musician Bill Withers’ life starting in a small town in Slab Fork making his way through his rise to music fame in the 1970s. Moreover, the documentary feature, Super-Size Me (2004), was filmed in Beckley, WV. This film examines the influence of fast-food industries as Morgan Spurlock documents his own personal health consequences as he eats only McDonald’s food for an entire month.   

There are countless other great films that were filmed in West Virginia. We Are Marshall, based on a true story, was partly filmed in Huntington, WV. October Sky is about a coal man in West Virginia who expects his sons to grow up and follow in his footsteps. Ironically, this movie was filmed in Tennessee.   

TV Episodes:   

A 2019 episode of Hoarders featured “Sherry,” a hoarder in Wheeling, WV. Sherry received help in the clean-up of her dilapidated and overfilled home. The show also attempted to heal some of the underlying causes that put her in this situation and the damaged relationships caused by Sherry’s illness.   

Have you ever watched The Andy Griffith Show? The characters often refer to West Virginia. Aunt Bee regularly talks about her family in Morgantown, WV, which is the real-life hometown of Don Knotts, who played Barney Fife. He grew up in West Virginia and attended Morgantown High School.   

Ghost Hunters filmed an episode at the Moundsville, WV State Penitentiary. Spoiler alert: they found some ghosts, so they came back for more! 

Those are just to name a few. 

In addition to films, music, documentaries, and TV shows, we have props from Wheeling, WV. One iconic prop featured the Wheeling Marsh Factory cigar box in the movie The Green Mile. Marsh Wheeling Cigars were a staple of the tobacco industry in the 1800s and 1900s. 

West Virginia also has many people born in West Virginia that became actors, musicians, and athletes. To name a few, Steve Harvey of Family Feud, country music star Brad Paisley, Three’s Company star Joyce DeWitt, Deron Williams of the Dallas Mavericks, NFL player Randy Moss, movie star John Corbett, and Conchetta Ferrell from Two and a Half Men.   

In this small state, there are people that work hard and go after their dreams, and you can too. They always say big things come in small packages.  So, there you have it folks, we live in a state with small towns with lots of big talent!