By Katy Vaughn
The popular 1986 film Stand By Me was filmed partly in Cottage Grove on the OP&E tracks.
The film was based on the Stephen King novella, The Body. The young stars were Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell, Corey Feldman, and Kiefer Sutherland. Rob Reiner directed. Stephen King has said that this film was the best adaptation of any of his work and Rob Reiner considers it to be the best film he ever made.
The scene where the boys take off on their adventure was shot at the railroad bridge at the Mosby Creek trailhead of the Row River Trail. Other scenes were shot on the tracks near Harm’s Park and along Layng Creek. Although just a small part of the movie was filmed locally, the scenic locations resulted in many of the films publicity photos being staged here. One DVD version shows Dorena Lake in the background on the cover. A filming schedule for the movie is in the collection of the Historical Society. The entry for June 28th shows a busy day. The location would be Layng Road, the boys would sing the Palladin theme (Have Gun Will Travel), count food money, Chris would slap Teddy, and Teddy would dodge a train. Brownsville, Oregon was the main filming site, with a junkyard near Veneta showing up in a crucial scene.
In an interview Keifer Sutherland says that the cast and crew went to a local Renaissance Faire during filming and brought some cookies back with them. The cookies turned out to have pot in them and this left some cast members inadvertently high. Since the film was made during the Oregon Country Faire, the story checks out. This was the last movie filmed on the Oregon, Pacific and Eastern railroad tracks. The tracks were a boon to filmmakers over the years because the short line was scenic, had little traffic, and was privately owned. This made it easy to schedule shots and clear the tracks of other trains. The line was converted to a Bureau of Land Management Rails to Trails project in the 1990’s.
One of the most unusual uses of the tracks was as a stand-in for South Africa in the 1973 film Lost in the Stars. The film was an adaptation of Alan Paton’s novel Cry the Beloved Country. The train scene was supposed to be filmed in Jamaica, but a railroad strike prevented that from happening. A platform was built along the tracks on Layng Road and a number of actors and extras stood on it singing “Johannesburg” as a they saw a young Zulu off on his trip to the big city. Engine number 5 of The Goose was painted to be a South African & Eastern steam engine for the film.
The Disney film “Chester, Yesterday’s Horse was filmed in the Cottage Grove area in 1971. The film was about a logging horse who was being replaced by new-fangled logging balloons. The film starred Bill Williams, Jeff Tyler and Barbara Hale. Barbara Hale was well-known for her many, many seasons as Della Street on the Perry Mason television series and Bill Williams was television’s Kit Carson.
Chester was owned by Disney producer-director Larry Langsburgh, who also wrote the teleplay.
Chester lived on the LL Ranch in Eagle Point with his nearly identical stablemate, Rubin. Chester was selected as the lead because of his better temperament and his ability to jump. Rubin did get to be his stand-in though. Some of the local sights seen in the film were the Bohemia Sawmill, the Bohemia logging balloon, and the Blue Goose steam excursion railway. The film does not appear to be available anywhere, perhaps a copy still exists deep in the Disney vaults.
The OP&E railroad was not the only thing that Cottage Grove had to offer filmmakers. The city’s vintage, small-town vibe attracted production crews searching for an authentic looking slice of yesterday. The largest film to use our 60’s era feel was Animal House, the subject of next week’s mini-lesson. Two other movies had scenes filmed on Main Street. The 1998 Steve Prefontaine biopic, Without Limits, used the block of Main Street between 5th and 6th as a stand in for 13th Avenue in Eugene circa 1970. The film starred Billy Crudup as Steve, and Donald Sutherland as legendary track coach Bill Bowerman.
The 1998 coming of age film, Ricochet River, had Cottage Grove standing in as fictional logging town, Calumus Grove. The movie was one of actress Kate Hudson’s first film roles and also featured Free Willy actor Jason James Richter. Ken Kesey had a cameo as a high school sports announcer. The Old Town Club Tavern stood in as a diner, scenes were filmed along Main Street, on the Coast Fork River, and at the old Cottage Grove High School baseball field.
Cottage Grove resident Kristin Borg played Kate Hudson’s character as a young girl. She shared some of her experiences with us of being a small-town kid playing in a Hollywood film. She remembers having to get her make-up redone numerous times because she kept chasing grasshoppers between takes, and how important she felt when the crew drove a long way to get her favorite snack of squeeze cheese and crackers. She loved trying to keep up with the teenagers on the set, and followed them out on the rocks in the water and fell and cut her knee. An Oregon kid, she thought it was no big deal, but the entire medic team came rushing out as if she had broken a bone.
Trailers for most of these films are available on Youtube if you want to catch a cinematic glimpse of Cottage Grove’s past.