The Academy Awards celebrated their return to Hollywood proper last year with the opening of the Kodak Theatre, but the venue was the only thing about the Best Picture nominees that had anything to do with Hollywood. As the Los Angeles Times points out, for the past two years, not one of the Best Picture nominees was filmed within 2,000 miles Hollywood. This year, four of the five movies up for the American film industry’s top honor were shot outside of the U.S.
Neither ”Chicago” nor ”Gangs of New York” was filmed in its title city; ”Chicago” was shot in Toronto, while ”Gangs” was filmed in Rome. Holocaust drama ”The Pianist” was filmed on location in Poland and Germany, while New Zealand stood in for Middle-earth in ”The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” Only the New York and California segments of ”The Hours” were filmed on American soil, but the California scenes were shot in Florida.
The same was true of last year’s nominees, which were filmed either overseas or far from California: ”A Beautiful Mind” (shot on location in Princeton, N.J.), ”In the Bedroom” (shot on location in Maine), ”The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (New Zealand), ”Gosford Park” (on location in England), and ”Moulin Rouge” (Australia). You have to go back to 2000’s ”Erin Brockovich” to find a Best Picture nominee filmed primarily in the Los Angeles area.
Why are the Oscar favorites made so far from Hollywood? In some cases, for the sake of authentic locations (”Pianist”), sometimes because the director’s favored production team is based elsewhere (”Gangs,” ”Lord of the Rings”), and sometimes to save money (”Chicago”). Or maybe it’s because the major studios based in Hollywood are now almost entirely in the blockbuster business, not the Oscar business.