Breaking Bad wouldn’t be Breaking Bad without its endless blue New Mexico skies, and Anchorman wouldn’t be Anchorman without its classy San Diego setting. But in early versions of both films, they were set in very different locales.
How essential is a location to a story? Pretty essential, in the case of those two cultural touchstones. “Stay classy, Portland” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Yep, you heard that right. As we begin our tour of great scripts’ early locales, let’s start with:
Anchorman Was Once Set in Portland, Oregon
Pop over to the terrific screenwriting site StudioBinder and you can download this early draft of the Anchorman script by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Many things remained the same from script to screen — Ferrell’s McKay is pretty pleased with himself in both versions — and a few cosmetic changes are obvious. Christina Applegate’s Veronica Corningstone is known in the script as “Alicia Comingstone,” for example.
But one of the biggest changes is that the script is set in Portland, Oregon. That means none of the film’s jokes about the origins of San Dee-ah-go’s name appear. Sorry, whales.
Blade Runner Has San Francisco Roots
The 2019 version of Los Angeles of 1982’s Blade Runner is a sight to behold, with neon everywhere, gigantic video screens and flying cars. But the Phillip K. Dick story upon which Blade Runner is based, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” was set a few hundred miles north in San Francisco.
And no, San Francisco doesn’t have cool electric cars yet, either.
Carrie Goes South
Like a great many Stephen King novels, his 1974 debut Carrie was set in Maine. The film adaption was shot in California, as are most American movies, but Sissy Spacek’s Southern accent suggests that the film either takes place somewhere down South or that she and her mother has relocated from below the Mason-Dixon line.
One could make the case that Spacek, who is from Texas, is just talking in her natural accent – but that doesn’t explain why so many other Carrie stars, including Jersey boy John Travolta, in his debut film role — also have Southern accents.
Where Does Eyes Wide Take Place?
The Stanley Kubrick film, released in 1999, is set in contemporary New York City — but you may have noticed that it often looks nothing like New York City. That’s because the Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman thriller shot mostly in England.
The disorienting sense of location serves the film, which is based on the 1962 novel Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler and was originally set a hundred years before 1999, in Vienna. The main characters, Cruise’s Dr. Bill Harford and Kidman’s Alice Harford, feel themselves feeling lost and adrift when they realize their marriage isn’t as solid as they once imagined
Here’s one of the scenes in Eyes Wide Shut where New York really does look like New York. It features Scottish treasure Alan Cumming doing a quite solid American accent, and an ad lib that Kubrick loved so much he asked Cumming to do it again and again.
Extraction Was Extracted From Paraguay
Sam Hargrave’s 2020 Netflix action-thriller, starring Chris Hemsworth as a mercenary trying to recover a kidnapped kid, is based on the graphic novel Ciudad by Andre Parks, but the screenplay, by Joe Russo, changes the location to Bangladesh.
The film is best known for a a 12-minute continuous fight scene, but it wasn’t actually shot in Bangladesh — Hargrave told us the film shot in Ahmedabad, India, where he and his team tried to fit in “every stunt possible,” Hargrave told us. Here’s a little taste of the 12-minute scene:
Breaking Bad Broke Out of California
“You weren’t just a host, you were a character in the show,” Bryan Cranston told the people of Albuquerque, New Mexico, last year, as it unveiled statues of his character, Walter White, and Aaron Paul’s character, Jesse Pinkman. (They were commissioned and donated by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan.
Albuquerque was a massive part of Breaking Bad, but it could have been… San Bernardino, California. Before New Mexico lured Breaking Bad with tax incentives, Vince Gilligan planned for the show to take place outside Los Angeles, as you can see from the original Breaking Bad pilot script.
Of course, Breaking Bad delivered fantastic returns to New Mexico. It not only inspired a hit spinoff, Better Call Saul, but also drew the attention of countless other productions that have shot throughout the state of New Mexico.
Here’s a news report with Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Vince Gilligan and more paying tribute to Albuquerque.
Tulsa King Could Have Been a Kansas City King
In another case of tax incentives making a huge difference, the Sylvester Stallone mob drama Tulsa King was set in Kansas City before Oklahoma tax incentives convinced creator Taylor Sheridan and the rest of his team to switch locales. Steph Shannon, director of the KC Film Office, said her team was “heartbroken” by the decision — and determined to get tax incentives passed that would keep other productions in town.
At least Tulsa King has made good use of its new setting — Tulsa’s auditory marvel The Center of the Universe fits into the show’s themes perfectly.