The Edmond Sun

December 13, 2013

ON TRAVEL: Hanging with the stars in Shreveport

Elaine Warner
Special to The Sun

EDMOND — Who’d have thought Shreveport, La., qualifies as a true film capital? Thanks to active local and state film boards, Shreveport has hosted cast and crews for more than 200 movies, TV shows, shorts and documentaries. In its movie career, the town has played a variety of locales from Alaska to Amsterdam.

My husband Jack and I recently took our own mini-movie tour there. Our home base was the Remington Suite Hotel and Spa, choice of more than one Hollywood star including Gerard Butler, Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.

This charming boutique hotel started life in 1904 as Morrison Dixon, a pharmacy manufacturer. The modern accommodation it has become pays homage to the past by incorporating some of the architectural features of the original building — wooden beams and ceilings add a patina of age to the contemporary furnishings — and historical pictures of both the building and early Shreveport are on display in some of the hallways.

The hotel features 22 suites with individual decorating schemes. Our deluxe suite comprised a spacious living/lounging area, a roomy bedroom, bath with Jacuzzi and a kitchenette. With traditional-styled furniture and soft green carpet and walls, it was as soothing as a spring breeze.

Downstairs, the lobby floor, paved with quartz rock slabs, is warmed with area rugs. Cushy chairs, dark woodwork and the original exposed-brick walls give the space a clubby feel. Another area has tables and chairs where a complimentary continental breakfast is served. Amenities include an indoor, heated, salt-water pool, a barber shop, a spa and a well-appointed fitness center with Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna.

In spite of the star treatment, the room rates here were surprisingly reasonable. The six-and-a-half hour drive makes this a good destination for a long (perhaps romantic) weekend.

But I had movies on my mind. It was just a short walk to the Coffee Talk Café in the Hilton Hotel. I didn’t come for the coffee — just wanted to see the dozens of photos for stars who have visited here. I’m not up on the younger celebs but I did recognize Nicholas Cage, Richard Dreyfuss, Hugh Jackman and Catherine Zeta Jones among the autographed pictures.

Next stop was the Robinson Film Center, a multi-purpose building that houses two movie theaters, areas for educational programming and special events and a cool restaurant — Abby Singers’ Bistro with its own little balcony overlooking Texas Street.

Classes are designed to stimulate interest and appreciation of film and to support the burgeoning local film community. The theaters specialize in international, independent and classic films — much like the Noble Theatre at our own Oklahoma City Museum of Art.   

The Shreveport-Bossier Film Assistance Office website has a nice Film Trail brochure for those who want to match up film favorites with locations. Several of the sites were walking distance from the Remington Suite Hotel.  

Walking up Texas Street, we passed the Caddo Parish Courthouse at 501 Texas.  The building played a role in the 2009 movie “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” with Michael Douglas playing a hotshot criminal lawyer with a media problem.  

Two blocks up the street at 710 Texas is another movie location that is worth a visit in its own right — Artspace. This venue combines gallery spaces with creative space and a neat lunch spot. It also offers an opportunity to shop a nice selection of local and regional arts and crafts. In the movie “Factory Girl” the Artspace was artist Andy Warhol’s “factory.”

We needed the car for some of the other spots even though they’re geographically not far away. The Oakland Cemetery, one of Northern Louisiana’s oldest, is the resting place of 16 Shreveport mayors, 800 victims of the 1873 yellow fever epidemic and 300 Civil War veterans. Eighty-five percent of the burials took place before 1900. The cemetery is rarely used for burials today and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.  

Whenever a movie company needs a cemetery location, Oakland is the No. 1 choice. Look for it in “Mr. Brooks,” a suspenseful film starring Kevin Costner, William Hurt and Demi Moore.

On the southeast side of the cemetery is the Municipal Auditorium. Famous from its days of the “Louisiana Hayride” and Elvis’ first broadcast appearance, it’s a venue in the 2008’s “Soul Men” with Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac.

Even when Jack and I headed for dinner, we found ourselves in a film location.  The Louisiana Boardwalk, a cool outdoor shopping mall across the Arkansas River in Bossier City, was used in the 2007 movie “Cleaner,” another Samuel L. Jackson movie.  

We forgot about our quest and tended to other appetites at Pietro’s, a great pizza place. We were greeted by pizza patriarch Pietro Filippazzo, who showed us a whopping 28-inch pizza. We settled for individual slices — mmmm good. The specialty of the house is authentic Sicilian pizza, which is rectangular rather than round and features a thick crust. Next visit we’ll try that.

Foot-sore and sated, we headed back to the Remington and our lovely suite.  We have a long list of movies we want to rent now. And we look forward to recognizing sites we saw on our visit. As far as we’re concerned, Shreveport was a box-office hit.

ELAINE WARNER is an Edmond-based travel writer.