April 21, 2011

Real de Catorce: A Magical 'Ghost Town' Part Three

While some people see a ghost town, steeped in history, spirituality and freely growing peyote, others see a movie set. The empty streets of Real de Catorce have been used as the backdrop for so many documentaries and films, that many outside Mexico subconsciously picture the town as Mexico.

Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts

'The Mexican', starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, is one of the more famous movies shot in Real de Catorce. Here are two scenes from it, both showing the town.

Brad Pitt was later interviewed after the shoot and he said that Real de Catorce was 'a trip'. There are places in the town, where photographs of the filming are displayed. Local people were able to get very close to the stars, so some of the photos are very candid.

The movie also had a huge effect on the town in terms of amenities. Just one 'phone line and the electricity switching off at 8pm might have been considered fine for the residents, but a Hollywood film crew wasn't about to put up with that. By the time they left, the town had much more wiring and communications infrastructure.

Brad Pitt

Some of the local residents don't stop at allowing their town to be used as the backdrop to movies. They feature in them too. The chef of Ruinas del Real Hotel was in 'Pirates of the Caribbean'.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Ruinas del Real Hotel is just one of the handful of hotels and B&Bs set up to cater to the boom in tourism here. It is also the place favored by the incoming film crews. Guests here can stay in 'The Julia Roberts Suite', where the bathroom was especially built to the actress's specifications. (I guess that she wasn't prepared to 'slum' it, though the bathrooms throughout the hotel are quite satisfactory!)

Another big name movie shot in Real de Catorce was 'Bandidas', starring Penélope Cruz and Salma Hayek.

It's not just modern film crews that have descended upon the town. Back in 1948, John Huston arrived, with an ensemble cast, which included Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, and Tim Holt, in order to shoot 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre'. (You'll know it by the classic line, "We don't need no stinking badges!", which has been parodied in so many places since, despite being a misquotation.)

This was the first American movie to be shot on location entirely outside the USA. Some scenes were filmed in Durango and Tampico. It was also amongst the first 100 films to be selected for perservation, in the United States National Film Registry, as being 'culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant'.

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