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Article Teaser: Already viewed by more people than any of the other of this year's Oscar contenders, Brokeback has splayed some of Alberta's most stunning geography on silver screens the world over.

Keep reading below...

Brokeback Mountain Filming - Pictures and Review

Copyright (c) 2006-2017 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved
Written by:

Already viewed by more people than any of the other of this year's Oscar contenders, Brokeback has splayed some of Alberta's most stunning geography on silver screens the world over.

"I am pleased," says Alberta Minister of Economic Development, Clint Dunford. "Winning at the Oscars provides a credential booster for the both the local crew and for the province. Boosting Alberta's image like this means more film business in the future and the imagery captured by Alberta's inspiring mountain scenery will have a lasting effect on Alberta's tourism for years to come."

"Indeed this kind of coverage will continue to play out for quite awhile," adds Derek Coke-Kerr, managing director of Travel Alberta. He's also quick to point out that Brokeback's three Oscars - Ang Lee for best director, Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana for best adapted screenplay and Gustavo Santaolalla for best original score, are worth far more than the little gold men. With hundreds of millions of viewers who tuned into March 5's Oscars, the publicity for Alberta has just begun.

"Since its limited showing in early December (first appearing in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago), we've had dozens of calls per week – from tourists to film-related calls – wondering where in Alberta Brokeback was shot," says an ebullient Tina Alford, manager of location and marketing resources for Alberta Film.

From clips on Oprah to articles in the Chicago Tribune, Australia's Daily Telegraph, the Globe and Mail to Budget Travel, USA Today and most daily newspapers in Canada - Annie Proulx's short story, adapted by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana for the silver screen, seems to have struck a potent emotional chord with all audiences.

"Most of the tourists who are calling Travel Alberta are from the United States," adds Coke-Kerr. But that could change with Brokeback's new release in Berlin, next month's release in Japan and with the Academy Awards. Hanging around to view the credits, it's these movie buffs/travellers who have realized that Brokeback is not actually shot in Wyoming, but southern Alberta. And so, they're demanding to know the exact location of Brokeback Mountain (it's actually a composite of angles, from the peaks of Three Sisters flanking the town of Canmore, to Fortress and Moose Mountain, in Kananaskis Country). And they want to know where the two star-crossed sheep tenders, Heath Ledger (playing Ennis del Mar) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Jack Twist), jump off a cliff into a clear Rocky Mountain river.

But a few of the key scenes that all tourists seem to want to replay involve some of Alberta's finest campgrounds. One is a shot of Upper Kananaskis Lake, which is completely accessible as are most of the other scenes that feature camping – actual sites at Elbow Falls and Canyon Creek. Then there's the bridge along the Galatea hiking trail (in Kananaskis Country) where Ennis picks up supplies as well as King Creek (near the junction of Hwy 40 and the Smith-Dorrien Rd., in Kananaskis) where Ennis encounters the black bear (hired locally, from Doug's Exotic Zoo Farm, just outside of Innisfail).

For Alberta-based location manager, Darryl Solly – who from February to August 2004, clocked 35,000 km (22,000 mi) for this shoot – it was precisely this "accessible wilderness," that made him realize Alberta's enormous potential for remote and rugged backdrops such as we see in Brokeback. In fact, more than 90 per cent of the scenes in Brokeback were shot within 21 m (70 ft.) of a road. Perfect for travellers who want to experience grand wilderness without hoofing over mountain passes.

"Plus, the authentic towns such as Cowley (featured in the opening scene when Jake and Heath meet outside a rusted-up, derelict trailer) and Fort Macleod (where Heath and his family live in almost squalor, above a laundromat), made it so much more real.

"For those apartment scenes we moved the tenant out from the laundromat into the Red Coat Inn, in Fort Macleod, so we could shoot," says Solly, who's worked on other features such as Legends of the Fall.

Over the last two months, Brokeback has scooped up the Independent Spirit Awards for best picture, a Golden Globe award for best motion picture (drama), the Directors Guild of America's award (which went to the film's director, Ang Lee) and the Producers Guild top-film award. It was precisely these reasons that Oscar predictors thoght Brokeback was a dead-ringer for the little gold man.

Calgary: Dubbed the gateway to the Canadian Rockies, this southern Alberta city that's nudging a million people and is most famous for its 10-day whoop-up, the Calgary Stampede, was briefly featured in the bar scene where Jake hooks up with Lureen. That particular bar is the Ranchman's and is as authentic a cowboy bar that you'll ever mosey across. If you time your trip for next July you could find yourself two-steppin' till dawn (they even offer dance lessons) during Stampede. And one of the Thanksgiving scenes was shot at Fred Schwab and KC Moriarity's home in Scarboro, a historic, inner-city neighbourhood in Calgary. The Brokeback crew stayed at several Calgary hotels, namely the Fairmont Palliser, the Hyatt Regency, the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire and a boutique property, the Kensington Riverside Inn. Favourite restaurants where the cast was spotted include Catch, the Bungalow and Living Room as well as several uptown bars and clubs along 17 Avenue S.W. Solly claims that producer, Ang Lee, loved Peter's Drive-In best of all, "but that speaks to the fact that his sentimental favourite is Dairy Queen, as this was where Ang had his first North American meal after landing in New York where he studied film, after leaving Taiwan." The clothes on Jake and Heath's backs were scooped up from a retro/vintage clothing store, Divine Decadence, in Calgary and Edmonton. The sheep scenes (some of the most challenging shots in the film) were shot on Moose Mountain, a 45-minute drive west of Calgary and open to the public year-round.The little church in which Ennis and Alma are married was a tough one to find - but eventually the perfect little chapel was found in Dinton, 20 minutes east of Okotoks on Highway 547. Dinton also ended up serving as the location of the drive-in scene which was reconstructed on an existing softball diamond.


What Looks Off the Beaten Track is On

Canmore: A 60-minute drive west of Calgary, this alpine town of 11,000 was home to cast and crew for two weeks. Many cast members stayed at The Marriott and ate at the Grizzly Paw, says Solly. Numerous images of Brokeback Mountain were actual shots of the Three Sisters, a jagged backdrop of peaks that frames Canmore.

Kananaskis Village: Home to three hotels, this tiny village at the base of Nakiska Ski Resort was used as a base when the crew filmed various campsites (Canyon Creek, Elbow Falls, Upper Kananaskis Lakes, Mud Lake) and King Creek (where Ennis meets the bear).

Cowley: Brokeback opens with a haunting scene of big sky country where a clothes line snaps in the wind and is followed quickly by Jack and Ennis's first encounter in a parking lot – that fronts Cowley's butcher shop as a matter of fact. Solly raves about this selection and service and says emphatically "this butcher shop is my favourite in...well, the world – the beef here is as good as I've ever found." The cast didn't stay in Cowley but visitors can now - at a quaint, recently restored tiny church, St. Joseph's Inn.

Fort Macleod: Bunking down at the Red Coat Inn the cast shot several scenes in this southern town that until now has been most famous for its Empress Theatre and proximity to the UNESCO site of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. The scenes shot in this prairie town were Ennis' apartment, the diner where Ennis eats a slab of apple pie (the Java Shop) and the Queen's Hotel (where Ennis meets Cathy, in the latter part of the movie).

"One of the wonders of this film," says Coke-Kerr, "is that the focus is not exclusively on the Rocky Mountains. Yes, they're present and they're as captivating as always but it's the sweep across Alberta's small towns and prairies that best illustrates the diversity of our landscape. The fact it translates so well to the silver screen is thrilling for us, and we hope future visitors feel the same awe over its grandeur."


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Copyright (c) 2006 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved

Travel Alberta is the destination marketing organization for the Province of Alberta. Guided by the Strategic Tourism Marketing Council, Travel Alberta is the steward for the effective delivery of tourism marketing programs. For information about our organization, please visit our Travel Alberta industry web site at http://www.travelalberta.com

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