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Historic main street in fort Macleod
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The History of Hollywood’s Love Affair with Fort Macleod

Did you know? Fort Macleod's beautiful streets have been the backdrop for many movies, from the early 1900s to now

Fort Macleod is one of Alberta’s “hidden” gems, but it’s no secret to Hollywood.

The town’s cinematic history runs deep, and its contribution to the film world is far more significant than you might expect. 

In this quaint town nestled where the prairies meet the foothills, movie-making history comes to life in remarkable ways. Let’s take a journey through time and explore Fort Macleod’s enduring legacy in the world of cinema.

Early Beginnings

Fort Macleod’s association with the film industry traces back to the early 1900s when silent films were at the height of their popularity.

During this era, Fort Macleod’s charming streets and untouched landscapes caught the eye of filmmakers looking for picturesque backdrops for their films. Movies like Custer’s Last Stand (1912) found the town’s historical setting ideal for retelling significant events from the past.

Fort Whoop-Up

In 1954, Fort Macleod gained widespread recognition when it became the location for the production of The Far Country, directed by Anthony Mann and starring James Stewart.

The film tells the story of a self-minded adventurer who locks horns with an evil, corrupt judge while driving cattle to Dawson City, Yukon. The film featured Fort Whoop-Up, a notorious whiskey post in the late 1800s. The replica of the infamous fort used in the movie stands today in Lethbridge as the Fort Whoop-Up Interpretive Center. Jasper National Park was also used as the backdrop for the spectacular nature scenes depicting Alaska and the Yukon.

The Breakthrough

In 1999, Fort Macleod retook center stage as a filming location for Brokeback Mountain, which won the Best Director Oscar for Ang Lee.

The film’s success at the Oscars brought international fame to Fort Macleod. The local saloon, Ennis Del Mar’s trailer, and the nearby open plains became iconic symbols of the movie. 

Many of the mountain scenes were filmed in nearby Kananaskis Country. Ennis Del Mar, played by Heath Ledger, became an enduring cinematic figure forever associated with this charming town.

Hollywood North

Fort Macleod’s role as a filming location expanded as the film industry grew. The town’s rich heritage and well-preserved historic buildings have made it a favourite location for filmmakers.

It’s been a film site for big-name films like Passchendaele (2008), Interstellar (2014), Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), and most recently, the global phenomena series The Last of Us (2023-).

It’s no wonder that Fort Macleod has earned the title “Hollywood North” among local residents.

Fort Macleod’s Love for Movies

The town’s passion for movies extends beyond being a mere backdrop in famous films.

In the past, Fort Macleod celebrated its deep-rooted connection with cinema during the “Fort Macleod Reel Fun Film Festival.” This annual event attracted both local residents and visitors who came to enjoy classic films, documentaries, and independent features. The last year of the event was in 2017.

The Empress Theatre

One of the town’s prized possessions is the Empress Theatre, which has been a cornerstone of live entertainment and film screenings in Fort Macleod since it first opened in 1912. 

Over the years, the theatre has undergone renovations, ensuring it continues to provide a cinematic experience that marries the charm of the past with the technology of today.

It’s a place where the community comes together to enjoy films, live performances, and local events.

Preserving Fort Macleod’s Cinematic Heritage

Today, the town showcases the historical significance of the films shot within its borders through exhibitions and guided tours. 

The Fort Macleod Filming Museum provides visitors with insights into the making of iconic movies, allowing them to immerse themselves in the town’s unique cinematic history.

Fort Macleod’s contribution to the world of film remains a source of local pride. 

With its captivating landscapes, well-preserved history, and deep-rooted love for cinema, this small Alberta town continues to inspire filmmakers and enchant movie enthusiasts. 

Whether you’re a history buff, a movie fanatic, or simply seeking an authentic cinematic experience, Fort Macleod is a must-visit destination that will take you on a captivating journey through cinematic history.

Main Street | Town of Fort Macleod

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