Arguably the finest Hollywood film ever shot in Victoria is Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces. In 1970, Jack Nicholson got a best-actor Oscar nomination (he lost to George C. Scott for Patton) for his role in this movie, about an angry young concert pianist who returns to the Pacific Northwest to confront his father.
Though Five Easy Pieces has been preserved on DVD, the same can’t be said about many of the Victoria locations used in this classic film. The latter half of the movie largely takes place in a 1912 waterfront mansion on McPhail Road in Central Saanich. Unfortunately, about three years ago, the mansion – which lacked heritage protection – was torn down. (The owners salvaged its staircase and leaded glass, however.) And if you drive up the Island Highway, you might notice at the Crofton turnoff that the Red Rooster Coffee Shop – which appears in the movie’s troubled final scene, pictured above left – has recently been torn down as well. (Below is a photo of the location today.) The gas station next door, also in the movie, is about to be demolished too.
A museum in Savannah, Georgia, has preserved the city park bench used in Forrest Gump. Recently, Fort Edmonton Park has started offering tours of its sites used for Brad Pitt’s new Jesse James movie. Some cities have figured out that a city’s heritage – especially to tourists – can include the locations for famous movies filmed there. Victoria's municipalities should do the same before our own cinematic history fades from view.
UPDATE (March 1, 2011): The old gas station is gone. The Globe and Mail’s Tom Hawthorn has written a nice piece about the Vancouver Island locations of Five Easy Pieces. Read it here. As another blog notes, “Unfortunately any recognizable landmark from the film[’s final scene] has been torn down and replaced”.