It was last summer when television crews were on the Sandy Ford Bridge east of Leonore shooting for the upcoming HBO horror drama “Lovecraft Country.”
HBO has yet to announce a premiere date for the series as many details on the project are still under wraps. However, there are some big names attached, including executive producers Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams.
The Illinois Valley doesn’t show up often on the silver or small screens, but the area has had a few notable appearances in film and television in the past few decades.
So in anticipation of rural Leonore’s big debut (possibly in late 2019), here are the other projects filmed in La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and IMDb.com.
Lovecraft Country (2019)
The Sandy Ford bridge was the main reason film crews made the trip to rural La Salle County. According to NewsTribune archives, the bridge fits the 1950s era look the TV show is set in. According to IMDb, the premise of the show is “a young African-American travels across the U.S. in the 1950s in search of his missing father.” Award winning actors Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire) and Courtney B. Vance (The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story) are among the recurring stars.
Triumph, IL (2017)
Can the sport of curling turn you into a better person? That’s the premise of this independent film that was shot in Earlville and Triumph, prominently featuring the Waltham Curling Club. The film was directed by Jake Myers, who is originally from Ottawa. He told the NewsTribune last year that the film had a micro-budget and was shot in the crew’s spare time.
“All of our actors have other jobs — day jobs — and so do I,” he said. “We would just film on weekends and whenever we would have a break and we ended up doing it over a year and a half.”
Man of Steel (2013)
In Henry Cavil’s first turn as Superman, his origin story takes viewers back to his upbringing in Smallville, Kan. But North Central Illinois was the stand-in for the fictional community in many aspects.
Several locations in Kendall County are included, and the action starts to creep into La Salle County with scenes taking place in Millington and Sandwich. But the county’s starring moment is a crash scene where a young Clark Kent saves a bus full of children after the vehicle drives off a bridge into a river below. The U.S. 52 bridge east of Serena served as a shooting location for part of that scene.
HBO’s first trip through the area was to tell a much different type of story than the upcoming Lovecraft Country. The 2003 Emmy-winning film “Normal” takes a look at how small town life and marriage are interrupted when a longtime factory worker decides he wants to undergo sex reassignment surgery and transition to a woman.
The film starred Jessica Lange and Tom Wilkinson and prominently features the city of Earlville. According to NewsTribune archives, filming took place in town in both winter and summer months in 2002. Outside of the factory location in Wisconsin, almost all filming took place in northern Illinois, including Somonauk.
Reach the Rock (1998)
William Sadler, best known as the stuttering inmate in “The Shawshank Redemption,” starred in this 1998 release from executive producer John Hughes.
Sadler plays a police chief engaged in a contest of wills with a young hoodlum portrayed by Alessandro Nivola. A key funeral scene was filmed at Utica’s Oak Hill and St. Mary’s cemeteries.
Dennis the Menace (1993)
The cartoon strip and television character took to the big screen in this John Hughes written and produced feature film. And like most John Hughes movies, this was largely filmed in the Illinois suburbs and Chicago with Walter Matthau starring as Mr. Wilson.
But filming moved downstate to La Salle along the Illinois and Michigan Canal, according to the Illinois Film Office. The scenes with Christopher Lloyd’s Switchblade Sam character appear to have shots resembling the canal. The character was considered by more than a few critics too dark in an otherwise lighthearted film.
Roger Ebert wrote: “There’s a lot to like in ‘Dennis the Menace.’ But Switchblade Sam prevents me from recommending it.”
The Babe (1992)
John Goodman actually had to lose weight to play George Herman Ruth in this feature film, which was filmed predominantly in Chicago.
According to the Illinois Film Office, “The Babe” did make a stop in La Salle for some shots, and IMDb.com lists the I&M Canal as a shooting location.
The film also features plenty of Wrigley Field and the minor league ballpark in Danville.
This Christmas flick’s pivotal scene was filmed at Starved Rock State Park where the titular reindeer takes flight off of a cliff to rejoin Santa.
The crew filmed on Lovers Leap and Devil’s Nose, according to NewsTribune archives.
“I remember being scared because we were up so high and we were filming right at the edge of that cliff,” child actor Rebecca Harrell Tickell told the NewsTribune in 2013.
Harrell Tickell, who would later move onto directing documentaries, starred alongside Sam Elliott and Cloris Leachman.
Brett Herrmann can be reached at (815) 220-6933 or svreporter@newstrib. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SpringValley.