Hollywood’s love affair—with Ventura

by Ivor Davis

Hollywood’s love affair with Ventura continues unabashed. Always has and probably always will.

Over the years tinsel town movie crews have raced up to our shores to shoot a wide ranging assortment of movies for almost as long as Hollywood has been in business.

The list is endless and city coffers over the years have been fattened thanks to Hollywood location fees. In this article I am sticking strictly to Our Town, although going back to l915—and D.W.Griffiths classic black and white movie, “Birth of A Nation”—The County, particularly Thousand Oaks as well as neighboring communities like Santa Paula and Ojai—it is obvious that our city has always been very high on the movieland location scouts hit list.

So, why the rush to Ventura? Noted the Los Angeles Times in l999: “Besides simple proximity, the reason Ventura County keeps showing up on screen is that its country roads, beaches and main streets can pass for ‘Anytown, USA.’”

So now you know.

Let me name just a handful of films that have alighted in our fair city. In l990 “The Two Jakes” with Jack Nicholson starring and directing took over City Hall—and then moved down the road to the Ojai Valley Inn for a spot of golf. During shooting the loveable Mr. Nicholson took over the largest suite in Ventura—and liked to party. I was told by a Ventura police officer who doubled as security for the film, that the Swat Team often invaded Nicholson’s suite because of noisy parties. I exaggerate, of course. But only slightly.

And then who can forget two other films.

Back in 2000 the movie, “Erin Brockovich,” with the lovely Julia Roberts in the title role, invaded our town for several weeks. Scenes were shot in downtown Main Street cafes—and the director Steven Soderbergh and his crew decided that a house in Ventura would provide the perfect place of residence for the crusading Ms. Brockovich.

And here’s something I learned from reading the original script. There was a notation on the pages that said, “Erin lives in a simple bungalow in a rundown, crappy neighborhood.”

How dare they, I though. Everyone knows there are no such neighborhoods in Our Town! But at least Julia Roberts –despite her accommodation—ended up winning a best actress Oscar for that role!

David Comden, the former publisher of Ventana Magazine and the Reporter, also informed me that Ventura’s City Hall (when it was actually our local jailhouse and courthouse) starred in a little known horror film made by producer- director William Castle called “Homicidal.” And the film crew also used a local home nearby as a murder site! And he even came up with a photo of City Hall as jailhouse!

And who amongst us can ever forget the time that John Travolta and his co-stars—Halle Berry and Australian actor singer Hugh Jackman commandeered Main Street for well over a week on the 2001 film “Swordfish,” which incidentally did not set the box office alight. Local businesses suffered—although they were compensated by the studio.

Still, while in our town, they blew up a building and wrecked a few cars, just in case you missed the fact that Hollywood had taken over our streets!

I’ve only skimmed the surface. But maybe Breeze readers can write in and tell me more about the Hollywood invasion. And what films I have most certainly left out.

Ivor Davis
Author of:
Manson Exposed: A Reporter’s 50-Year Journey into Madness and Murder
The Beatles and Me on Tour

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