Kootenai Country is located in the extreme northwest corner of the state known as "Big Sky Country." The beauty of Montana has been profiled in landscape art for hundreds of years. Native peoples and early explorers such as David Thompson and Lewis and Clark often sketched or painted the amazing natural beauty of the Treasure State. Many early artists were drawn to Montana, and artists like Charles M. Russel obviously knew that the stunning scenery, cloud formations, mountainscapes and reflective movements of water bodies were indeed part of the treasure. Modern filmmakers know this too.
Filmmaking in Montana began with a little known 1897 film promoting travel entitled, "Tourist Train Leaving Livingston," and has continued as recently as 2015 with the filming of the oscar winning movie "The Revenant," near Libby, Montana. Movie makers flock here to include and portray some of the most magnificent scenery in the world while shooting in Big Sky Country. The breath taking beauty of the American West is shared with the planet as an example of the independence, rugged individualism through their craft.
It is worth noting that approximately 80-popular films have included panoramic views, closeups, and cloudscapes of Montana scenes. It is an impressive list, with top rate directors, quality producers, and star studded casts of all eras.
At least four of these big screen projects not only were Made in Montana movies, but were for the most part filmed right here in Kootenai Country Montana. In 1989, the film "Always" starring Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, and Audrey Hepburn was made in and around Libby, Montana. Dreyfuss stars as the pilot of an aerial attack firefighting retardant drop bomber who is killed when his plane crashes while fighting a major forest fire. From heaven, he must mentor a new pilot, while watching him fall in love with his surviving girlfriend. Some of the cast and crew stayed at the Venture Inn, and John Goodman was known to buy the house a round at many local taverns.
In 1994, Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon had the lead roles in the movie "The River Wild." It’s plot revolves around a family on a whitewater rafting trip who encounter two violent criminals. Filming was done almost exclusively on the whitewater rapids of the Kootenai River which was named after the Kootenai Indians and Kootenai Falls. Meryl Streep was seen frequently leaving the Venture Inn where she was staying in a white Mercedes and waving at passing folks. Kevin Bacon also created quite a stir when he sustained a minor injury and walked in to Libby Prompt Care to get patched up!
In the 2003 flick starring Tara Reid and Kip Pardue titled "Devil's Pond," the lead actors portray two newlyweds that head to a remote lake house for their honeymoon. The plot takes a turn for the worse, when the husband turns the island and the lake house into a prison for his new wife. Locals rented barges to the film company for filming near Libby at Horseshoe Lake in the Chain of Lakes.
The movie "The Revenant" starring Leonardo DiCaprio (for which he won his first Best Actor Academy Award) and Tom Hardy, caused a lot of excitement while filming near Libby. The plot was inspired by the real life experiences of Hugh Glass in 1823 Montana. DiCaprio stars as Glass, who is mauled by a grizzly bear while scouting and is left for dead. He recovers miraculously and seeks revenge on those who had left him to die. There are some brutal scenes in this movie. During one of the scenes depicting Glass (DiCaprio) escaping Indians by going over the Kootenai Falls, the stuntman playing Leonardo’s role broke his leg and had to be airlifted out. The movie staff officed and stayed at The Venture Inn along with many of the crew.
The Montana Film Office promotes Montana as a film location and acts as a central information source for on location film makers. Services include location assistance, liaison services, production assistance in securing local goods and services and administration of the Big Sky on the Big Screen Act, Montana’s economic incentives for filmmakers. Incentives include a 14-percent refundable tax credit based on hired Montana Labor, and a 9-percent refundable tax credit based on qualified expenditures with no cap or maximum spend.
So, if you're a filmmaker, think about producing your next movie in beautiful Kootenai Country Montana and enjoy a stay at the Venture! If you're a movie buff, keep your eye out for scenes from this area, and come visit us in the place so beautiful the filmmaking world uses it as an icon for the beauty of the natural world. For more information on movie making in Montana contact Montana Film Office, Dept. of Commerce, 301 S. Park Ave., Helena, MT. 59620. By phone at (406) 841-2876. Also, visit their website at www.montanafilm.com. (Note: Writer reference appreciation to Montana Film Office Publications for information provided.)