MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Several full-length feature films have been shot in Minnesota over the years.
It’s often exciting for moviegoers to see familiar places on the big screen. But one film produced here almost 25 years ago transformed the quiet river town of Wabasha into a mecca for film lovers from all over the world.
Your pick for best Minnesota-made film is “Grumpy Old Men.”
“Wabasha is really a special place,” said resident Jay Jewson. “We’ve got some name recognition. It’s the oldest city in Minnesota.”
Nestled along the Mississippi River, the town has an almost Norman Rockwell feel about it.
But when a screenplay written by a local guy named Mark Steven Johnson was picked up by Warner Brothers, the quiet town would be changed forever.
The 1993 film with an A-list cast was a box office hit, grossing over $70 million.
But it was the characters that Matthau and Lemmon portrayed — based on real-life people from Wabasha — that made the film so endearing.
“The story is so based on fact. The writer, I believe, his grandfather was the chief of police here,” Jewson said.
Blaine Marcou is a Wabasha native who worked as a construction foreman on “Grumpy Old Men and “Grumpier Old Men.”
“I read the script and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is Wabasha!'” Marcou said. “I recognized Indian Slough and the Clickner House, and I thought, ‘This will be fun.'”
He recalls long days on the set.
“Seven days a week, 12 hours a day,” Marcou said.
But he also has fond memories of encounters with the talent.
“Both Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were very easy to talk to, and Ann Margaret and then, on the second picture, Sophia [Loren], she just dripped elegance,” Marcou said. “Little Burgess [Meredith] was just full of spit and vinegar.”
As you make your way around Wabasha, there are references to the film everywhere you look. And it’s a little difficult not to get caught up in it.
“You know, it’s really kind of a cult classic. People can’t stop watching it,” Jewson said. “And to have actors of that caliber doing a movie about our town, that’s pretty fortunate for us.”
“Fargo” and “The Mighty Ducks” were your runners up for best Minnesota-made movie.