On the trail of key moments from our pop-cultural past
It was just six years ago this week that the clocks in Ashland were turned back — temporarily, at least — to 1995.
The cause was the filming of “Wild,” a movie that ultimately earned Reese Witherspoon an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of a woman who embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she walks the Pacific Coast Trail.
A faux-party was held in Ashland Plaza, with faux spring leaves and flowers adorning the crisp October landscape.
While little remains of that film-making experience, it now appears as though plans are in place for a more permanent reminder of the event.
Ashland has been named as one of the next group of cities and towns across the state to become part of what’s known as the Oregon Film Trail — an effort to mark the famed locations where high-profile films were shot.
Begun last year by the state Oregon Film agency, the Trail already has placed markers to note where such movies as “The Goonies,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Stand By Me” were filmed.
“The Trail,” according to the website for the project, “consists of specially designed signs, positioned at strategic points around the state that serve to identify specific important, and iconic, filming locations and offer production facts and anecdotes intended to appeal to tourists and film buffs alike.”
The designation as a Historic Film Site along the Trail comes with a custom-made sign of two panels — one describing the movie itself, the other listing “Did You Know?” facts about the filming.
Ashland residents — being notoriously sensitive about what does, and (more controversial) does not belong on the Plaza — should know that Oregon Film works with local authorities to locate the markers with an eye toward “locating signage in areas without damaging property, being sensitive to property boundaries, quality of life issues near sites, as well as safety.”
And “Wild” isn’t the only film with Ashland connections that will be among the next movies added to the Trail.
The state agency also intends to add the 2009 film “Coraline” to the ranks as a Historic Film Site ... although finding a place to put the marker might prove a challenge.
Did you know (although I sure most of you did) that “Coraline” is an Oscar-nominated animated film that uses an unnamed Ashland to tell its mystical tale of a young girl trying to adjust to life in her new hometown.
Much of the film is set in faux-Ashland’s fictional Pink Palace Apartments, which set film and architecture buffs off in search of its potential counterpart in real-Ashland.
“Coraline” also features a secret portal to an alternate-universe Ashland — a happier place with better weather — and includes scenes inspired by the actual setting of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
I suppose they could put the marker outside the Allen Elizabethan Theatre, as long as it didn’t disturb the ghost of Charles Laughton.
The spirit of the Academy Award-winning actor is said to haunt the outdoor stage ever since he passed away after agreeing in 1962 to take part in the forthcoming OSF season.
Details vary, but one of the most prominent is that Laughton was to play the lead in “King Lear” and when that production took place the next year with another actor in the role, a loud Laughtonesque moaning could be heard throughout the theater, followed by a cold breeze so strong that it knocked the hats off the actors.
Perhaps, the Oregon Film Trail should best leave Laughton alone and locate the Pink Palace Apartments instead.
But perhaps there should be a plaque to note Laughton’s presence, so to speak, and if the state can come up with an Oregon Film Trail, shouldn’t there be enough sites of historic interest to merit creating a Southern Oregon Cultural Trail of our own?
There’s already a plaque in Ashland at the site where famed lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov set about collecting butterflies in 1953 — and, in his off-hours, was hard at work finishing his novel ... “Lolita.” What could be so difficult about this?
We have a wine trail, an ale trail, and more hiking trails than Reese Witherspoon could ever pretend to walk.
Hmm ... where shall we start?
How about at the top, or more precisely, at the top of Lower Table Rock — where an airstrip was constructed in the late 1940s as a lure to Hollywood types with the intent of selling them on the idea of buying residential properties in the area.
Ginger Rogers was involved in the plan, while stars such as Robert Preston, Ann Miller and Ward Bond made the trip (although some, it is said, avoided the airplane trip).
Then we should move to Main Street in Medford, where in 1967 the Grand Marshal of the Pear Blossom Parade was none other than Spock himself — Leonard Nimoy sitting atop the back seat of a convertible in full Vulcan regalia. It was the one and only time, the actor recounted, that he ever made a publicity appearance in character.
The possibilities are endless.
There could be a marker at the point in the Rogue River where outdoors adventurer Meryl Streep (or her stunt double) rides the rapids in a raft with ne’er-do-wells Kevin Bacon and John C. Reilly. Or inside a back hallway at The Expo, where not one ... not two ... but three security guards stuck to their order to prevent anyone without a credential from going backstage at a Bob Dylan concert — and held up the start of the festivities as someone arrived to tell them that, yes, that was Bob Dylan they had stopped at the checkpoint.
One thing I do know, if the Oregon Film Trail someday recognizes the recent movie “Phoenix, Oregon,” they could be stumped as to whether to place the marker in Phoenix – or in Klamath Falls, where the film was shot.
Maybe there’s an offshoot of Coraline’s secret portal that could have the sign in both places at once.
There is no marker signaling where Mail Tribune copy desk chief Robert Galvin writes his columns. Just follow the trail of potato chip crumbs to firstname.lastname@example.org