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New book a guide to where movies filmed in Land of Enchantment

Joss Whedon and Mark Ruffalo work in the Albuquerque Rail Yards during production of 2012’s “The Avengers.” (Courtesy of IMDB)
Plan a road trip to check out movie locations in New Mexico

It’s field trip time, movie buffs, and we’re headed down to the 505.

Our guide is New Mexico journalist Jason Strykowski, who just recently published his new book, “A Guide to New Mexico Film: From Billy the Kid to Breaking Bad and Beyond.”

The book, published by the University of New Mexico Press, breaks the state down into geographic regions and includes not only the history of a particular area where a movie was shot, but also gives easy-to-read directions and offers tips for where to stay and where to eat while you’re there.

Strykowski, who along with being a journalist has worked in the film industry on and off for about decade in support roles, has set the guide up as a sort of “call sheet” and map: A guide those working on a movie get every day that outlines the production’s plan for the day.

He said he chose the films included in the guide both for their worth as a movie and for the value of where they were filmed – the second seems to hold true because if you live near an area long enough, you tend to take it for granted.

Buy the book!

Jason Strykowski’s book, “A Guide to New Mexico Film Locations: From Billy the Kid to Breaking Bad and Beyond,” is available through Maria’s Bookshop. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/3D3PWNH.

“What I wanted to do was give people a sense of films that are worth seeing either because they’re quality films or because they’re locations worth going to,” he said. “A lot of it is I want to make sure that people have a chance, if they’re driving down from your area to get down here and check out some cool spots that maybe they hadn’t thought of, like the rail yards in Albuquerque – you might be coming down from Durango to catch a flight at the airport, and you can stop at the rail yards, they’ve got a winter festival, I think, and you can also kind of jump into ‘The Avengers,’ which is a great movie, that maybe you’ve seen, maybe you haven’t, but they shot some crucial segments over at this historic locomotive yard.”

The 1951 Billy Wilder classic “Ace in the Hole,” starring Kirk Douglas, was filmed in Albuquerque and Gallup. (Courtesy of IMDB)

Of all the films Strykowski covered in the book, he said his favorite is probably “Ace in the Hole,” the 1951 Billy Wilder drama starring Kirk Douglas as reporter Chuck Tatum. Tatum winds up working in at a local paper in New Mexico but quickly finds that there’s not much in the way of pressing news. However, when Tatum catches wind of a treasure hunter trapped in a mineshaft, he turns the story into a media sensation.

Some of my favorites from the book:

  • Las Vegas: “Red Dawn.” The original 1984 movie starring just about every hot young actor of the time (Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey, C. Thomas Howell, etc.). A product of Cold War times, it’s the story of two brothers who escape with their friends to the woods when Soviet soldiers invade a small Colorado town. With their father, Tom (Harry Dean Stanton), a prisoner of the invading army, the teens decide to fight against the Soviets. As the country comes under increasing attack, the group teams up with Lt. Col. Andrew Tanner (Powers Boothe) to take back their town. Las Vegas was used by director John Milius as the setting for the fictional town of Calumet, Colorado.
  • Rio Grande Gorge Bridge outside Taos: “Terminator Salvation” and “Natural Born Killers.” According to “New Mexico Film Locations,” the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, is among the highest in the U.S. (650 feet) and is a staple of New Mexican filmmaking. 2009’s “Terminator Salvation,” Strykowski writes, was the “most expensive film made in New Mexico up to that point. Starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington and my girl Helena Bonham Carter, the production took over the area for several days. “They shot some of the bridge-chase action practically, without CGI, filming a high-speed drive across the bridge with stunt actors hanging from the back of a wrecker truck.” And in Oliver Stone’s 1994 film“Natural Born Killers,” the bridge is where Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) get married.

Strykowski said he hopes people will use “New Mexico Film Locations” as an excuse to get out into the state and take a new look at their everyday surroundings.

“My dream is that people buy it and that they can have someone in the back of the car reading sections of it while mom, dad, boyfriend, girlfriend or sibling drives. That’s my big hope for the book – something that will take familiar landscapes and then give it a whole new perspective for people,” he said.


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