Celebrities in the Rockies – Movie Locations and Notes

Posted on: August 1st, 2012

Following our series on films shot in western Canada, here’s a story originally written by Brian Patton, one of our contributors, for our 2006 guide.

Marilyn Monroe stayed at the historic accommodation Becker’s Bungalows, 5 km south of Jasper on Highway #93, Jasper National Park, during the filming of River of no Return during late July and early August, 1953. Baseball star Joe DiMaggio, her fiancé, visited her while she was there.

Bing Crosby yodelled his way along Sunwapta Gorge Viewpoint, 6.5 km north of the Icefield Centre on Highway #93. That was during the filming of The Emperor Waltz in the summer of 1946, but the film was released two years later. The glacier-clad mountains of the icefield and Jasper doubled for the movie’s setting of Austria.

Though natives from the Stoney Reserve served as extras in numerous films from 1921 through 1953, the first major motion picture to utilize the scenic, foothills location of their reserve was Arthur Penn’s Little Big Man (1970) starring Dustin Hoffman. Many films and movie stars followed, including Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976) with Paul Newman, Legends of the Fall (1993) with Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, Open Range (2003) with Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, and Annette Bening, and The Assassination of Jesse James (2006) with Brad Pitt.

Starting in the late 1970s, the town of Canmore on the eastern boundary of Banff National Park, became a centre for film-making activity. Among the movies filmed within town boundaries are Death Hunt (1981) starring Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin, The Last of the Dogmen (1995) with Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey, Mystery, Alaska (1999) with Russell Crowe and Burt Reynolds, and Snow Dogs (2002) with Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Coburn.

The shores of the scenic Upper Kananaskis Lake, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, have been trod by numerous stars, including Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin in The Edge (1996), Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry in X-Men 2 (2003), and Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in the award-winning Brokeback Mountain (2005).

Regarding Brokeback Mountain, many people were surprised to learn that this motion picture was actualy shot in southern Alberta, not in Wyoming. The film and economic development departments of the Alberta Government were so excited about the buzz that this film created that Travel Alberta created “Brokeback content” and added it to their website as a promotional tool. They even built a section entitled “Design your own Brokeback Tour.”

A few key scenes that tourists seem to want to replay involve some of Alberta’s finest campgrounds. one is a shot of Upper Kananaskis Lake, actual sites at Elbow Falls and Canyon Creek. Then there’s a bridge along the Galatea Trail, in Kananaskis Country, where Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) pick up supplies. And Ennis encounters a black bear at King Creek, near the junction of Highway #40 and the Smith-Dorrien Trail (Road), In Kananaskis Country.

Want to know where the cast and crew stayed during filming?

In Canmore, many stayed at the Marriott and ate at the Grizzly Paw. And when they were filming the campsites, Kananaskis Village was used as the base of operations by the crew.

Other important venues in the movie were Fort Macleod, Cowley and the jagged backdrop of the Three Sisters mountain peaks. Actually, more than 90 per cent of the scenes in Brokeback Mountain were shot within 21 m (70 ft.) of the road! That’s perfect for travellers who want to experience grand wilderness without hoofing over mountain passes (though you can do that too!).

~By Brian Patton

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