Tour Film Sites From Iron Man 3
Picture this: It’s mid-2012, and downtown Wilmington is like a planetarium, with stars popping up all over the place.
Cameras roll at the Wilmington Convention Center, where Julianne Hough is filming a sequence for Safe Haven. Tim Guinee and Elizabeth Mitchell stroll down Front Street for a scene in NBC’s Revolution. At Elijah’s Restaurant on the Cape Fear Riverwalk, Jennifer Aniston gets acquainted with scores of people who’ll work with her on We’re the Millers. Co-star Emma Roberts frequents Folks Café and tweets that it’s “the best coffee I’ve ever had.”
An impressive montage to be sure, but for sheer excitement, nothing beats the activity connected to Iron Man 3. A dozen people dangling from a rig over the Cape Fear River by the Port City Marina. Robert Downey Jr. entering a 100-year-old Neoclassical Revival landmark for a shoot. Gwyneth Paltrow at one of the city’s most celebrated restaurants. Sir Ben Kingsley touring a storied historic attraction. Downey shopping at a très stylish boutique.
With the May 3 release of Iron Man 3, film lovers can return to the scenes of the action. The itinerary includes the Oak Island beach community, the small towns of Rose Hill and Kenansville, urban Raleigh and suburban Cary, but the logical place to begin is downtown Wilmington.
On the streets along the Cape Fear River, a dozen or so different tours depart by land and water, and virtually all mention sites from the hundreds of movies, TV series and other projects shot here. For a film-focused view, Cape Fear Segway offers a 90-minute “Hollywood” tour, and the Hollywood Location Walk leaves from Market and Water streets. Ask your guide to point out Edge of Urge, a boutique where Downey shopped during a casting call.
Some of Iron Man 3’s most dramatic filming took place at the State Port with smoke, gunfire and a buzzing helicopter lighting the night sky. Though the vast shipping complex is closed to the public, you can observe the towering cranes and passing ships that reflect a defining industry.
Across the river, the USS North Carolina made headlines when Sir Ben Kingsley took a private tour. Kingsley’s interest in the battleship, the first built for World War II and one of era’s best-preserved, stems from his casting as a British admiral in a World War I epic.
Much of the filming was done at sites with limited public access, but you can admire the stately architecture of the Cape Fear Club on Chestnut Street, stop by Steven’s Hardware on Dawson Street and drive past the New Hanover Regional Medical Center. And EUE/Screen Gems Studios, where Iron Man 3 was based and where all of the stage filming was done, plans to offer tours in the near future.
If you want to match palates with the Iron Man 3 stars, try Roko Italian Cuisine, an insider favorite where Kingsley and Gwyneth Paltrow had dinner. Downey, Paltrow and Jon Favreau dined at Catch — Paltrow was impressed enough to request a private cooking lesson from chef Keith Rhodes of Top Chef: Texas fame and blog about the experience. And executive producer Charles Newirth was a fan of Boca Bay Seafood Restaurant and Oyster Bar, Brasserie du Soleil and Causeway Café at Wrightsville Beach.
While filming in the area, cast and crew members stayed in hotels and vacation rental homes. Find everything you need for planning your stay at www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com.
Thirty miles south of Wilmington, Oak Island residents watched stunt actors fall from the sky to the sea … again and again. Crews with parachutes glided down from helicopters for heart-stopping footage familiar from the very first Iron Man 3 preview. For a sense of the action, contact Skydive Coastal Carolinas in Southport: The company worked with the filmmakers and also offers skydiving thrills to the public.
While in Southport and Oak Island, experience the setting and locations for Safe Haven, Lasse Hallström’s 2013 adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel, and other projects.
Rose Hill and Kenansville
North Carolina’s Coastal Plain might bear little resemblance to the Appalachian Plateau in real life, but Hollywood presents a different view. To stage scenes set in the Chattanooga area, filmmakers headed to Duplin County, an agrarian expanse dotted with small towns along rail lines present and past.
Across East Church Street from the Trading Co. of Rose Hill, they transformed two vacant shops into the First Tennessee bank and The RockyTop restaurant. With the stage names still painted on the doors, the storefronts offer a prime photo op — no doubt you’ll want to back up far enough to get the Rose Hill water tower in the shot.
Head up North Sycamore Street past the World’s Largest Frying Pan to Duplin Winery, where Iron Man 3 crew members paid regular lunchtime visits. The Bistro pairs its seasonal soups, salads and sandwiches with wines made from North Carolina’s native muscadine grapes. This is the world’s largest muscadine winery, so a tour, tasting and souvenirs from the teeming gift shop are in order. Another dining recommendation from the crew: The Mad Boar in Wallace. The restaurant specializes in regional cuisine and seafood fresh from the coast.
A 15-minute drive to Kenansville takes you to the location of Iron Man 3’s Miss Chattanooga Christmas Pageant, Kenan Memorial Auditorium. The Kenan family name resonates throughout North Carolina history and also captured the nation’s imagination in 1901 when Mary Lily Kenan married oil magnate-developer Henry Flagler at Liberty Hall.
Raleigh and Cary
Spoiler alert: You won’t be able to visit Iron Man 3’s Cary film locations, Epic Games and SAS Institute — these businesses aren’t open to the public. Instead, come to experience The Umstead Hotel and Spa, the five-star oasis that hosted Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce. The hotel is known for its connection to nature (it’s adjacent to William B. Umstead State Park), its art collection and Herons, its flagship restaurant.
Paltrow discovered another of the Capital City area’s choice dining spots after tweeting a request for restaurant recommendations. She decided on Poole’s Diner, James Beard Award finalist Ashley Christensen’s flagship enterprise, and tweeted her review: “AMAZING!”
added: April 29, 2013
updated: May 6, 2013
Ideas & What To Do
Picture this: It’s mid-2012, and downtown Wilmington is like a…
Ready to experience “The Hunger Games”? You’ve come…
Safe Haven, a romantic thriller film adapted from the Nicholas Sparks…
The Hunger Games was one of the biggest phenomenon and movie…
Even without peacekeepers, mockingjays and nightlock, visitors can…
North Carolina was a natural fit for "The Hunger Games," the Lionsgate…
Listen to the North Carolina Radio station on Pandora.North…
Listen to our all-new North Carolina Radio station on…