Clooney was here: St. Louis locations in 'Up in the Air'
POST-DISPATCH FILM CRITIC
View larger | Map by Gabe Hartwig | Photos by Erik M. Lunsford and Emily Rasinski | Hilton photos by Hilton Hotels Corporation
To folks in Hollywood, St. Louis must seem like Anytown, USA. And in the new movie "Up in the Air," it is.
In the film, George Clooney plays a corporate downsizer, a man who travels from coast to coast firing people. The movie's producers needed a cost-effective locale that could double for many different places, including Omaha, Neb.; Chicago; and small-town Wisconsin. After considering Atlanta and Detroit, they chose St. Louis, partly because Missouri offered tax incentives for film crews but largely because the city has so many diverse settings.
When the movie opens locally today, eagle-eyed audiences will recognize landmarks from Affton High School to the Cheshire Inn to the Mansion House apartments. And most conspicuous is Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
The film, directed by Jason Reitman ("Juno"), is being touted as an Academy Award contender and box-office hit. If it is, it could trigger a cottage industry of "Up in the Air" tours, shuttling movie buffs to the buildings on the following pages.
And the tours also could include the Chase Park Plaza hotel, where most of the cast and crew stayed; the Sub Zero vodka bar, where Clooney imbibed; and even a warehouse off North Lindbergh Boulevard where the production company reproduced an airplane interior.
What won't be on the tour is the Gateway Arch. That's too distinctive for Anytown, USA.
The vacant GenAmerica Life Insurance building at 700 Market Street in downtown St. Louis is the location for some scenes in which Clooney's character drops the ax on unsuspecting employees. (The 31-year-old building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is for sale, also was a location for the feature film "Meet Bill.")
The Mansion House apartments at 300 North Fourth Street is the site of Clooney's apartment. It's supposed to be in Omaha, Neb., where much of the novel by Walter Kirn is set.
Renaissance Grand Hotel
Clooney flirts with a fellow traveler, played by Vera Farmiga, in the Bistro bar of the Renaissance Grand Hotel, 800 Washington Avenue.
Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark
The downtown Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark at 1 South Broadway is the site of several scenes in the movie, including one where Clooney tells Anna Kendrick about the importance of earning frequent flier points.
When Clooney visits Farmiga's brownstone home in Chicago, the setting is actually in the 2300 block of Whittemore Place in the Lafayette Square neighborhood of south St. Louis.
The venerable Cheshire Inn, 6300 Clayton Road at Skinker Boulevard, is the site of a hotel check-in scene with Clooney and Farmiga, supposedly in rural Wisconsin. The hotel's restaurant is the site of the wedding rehearsal dinner that Clooney and Farmiga attend.
Maplewood United Methodist Church
Maplewood United Methodist Church, 7409 Flora Avenue, is the site of a wedding scene. Clooney, playing a confirmed bachelor, pitches the idea of commitment to his gun-shy prospective brother-in-law, played by Danny McBride, in a Sunday school classroom. The wedding proper happens in the chapel. The reception, with music by the local band Yukon Jake, is in one the church's meeting rooms (which has retained the wallpaper installed by the movie's art department).
Affton High School
Clooney tells Farmiga about his youthful exploits while they tour Affton High School, 8309 Mackenzie Road. (The movie's art department changed two letters in the signage to make it the fictional Ashton High School in Wisconsin.) The actors break in through a classroom window to the right of the front door, they pause at the trophy case where Clooney's exploits are honored, and they sit in the bleachers of the school gymnasium. (Affton High School is the alma mater of actor John Goodman.)
Lambert-St. Louis International Airport
Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is the setting for several scenes in the movie, only some of which are supposed to be in St. Louis. In one scene, Clooney's character cites the facility's importance in both aviation and architecture, mentioning that it was a home base for Charles Lindbergh and an inspiration for the builders of JFK Airport in New York. (Clooney is standing at a curbside spot that was also featured in the movies "The Lucky Ones" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles.") In the final scene of the movie, Clooney contemplates the jumbo arrivals-and-departures board in the main terminal.
Hilton St. Louis Airport
The exterior of the Hilton St. Louis Airport at 10330 Natural Bridge Road appears for about six seconds in the film.
Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel
Clooney has a lonely moment in a room at the curvy, black Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel, 9801 Natural Bridge Road. The next morning he drags his suitcase through a light snowfall in the hotel parking lot, seemingly unaware that he's on the road to an Oscar nomination.
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