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Tuesday November 28th 2023

Big Fish | 2003

Big Fish location: East Bridge Street, Wetumpka, Alabama
Big Fish location: the house of Ed Bloom: East Bridge Street, Wetumpka, Alabama | Photograph: Alabama Bureau of Tourism

Lacking the darkness that anchored Tim Burton’s earlier films, this story of Willie Bloom’s attempt to reconcile with his fantasist father is just too whimsical to pack an emotional punch. Apart from a brief excursion to Paris, where Willie (Billy Crudup) works, the movie was shot entirely in the vicinity of Montgomery, the state capital of Alabama.

Big Fish location: Wetumpka, Alabama
Big Fish location: the town of ‘Ashton’: Wetumpka, Alabama | Photograph: Alabama Bureau of Tourism

The fictitious town of ‘Ashton’ is mainly downtown Wetumpka, on Route 231, about 15 miles north of Montgomery.

Wetumpka was previously the setting for the 1995 film of Truman Capote’s The Grass Harp, with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon (directed by Matthau’s son, Charles). It was also the location for TV movie The Rosa Parks Story (in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man and was subsequently arrested. The subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott resulted in the desegregation of the transport system).

The grand Victorian house of the older Ed Bloom (Albert Finney) and his wife Sandra (Jessica Lange) is the old Collier House, 401 East Bridge Street (with the addition of a second story), on the Coosa River overlooking downtown Wetumpka.

More scenes of ‘Ashton’ were filmed in the town of Prattville, about eight miles to the southwest.

Between Wetumpka and Prattville is Millbrook, where young Ed (Ewan McGregor) tells the story of catching the big fish to a bunch of kids around the campfire in Jackson Lake Park.

Near Millbrook, the picture-perfect town of ‘Spectre’ was a set built by designer Dennis Gassner and, yes, that really is Billy Redden, the boy from Deliverance playing Duelling Banjos on the porch.

Big Fish location: Dicksonia Plantation, Lowndesboro, Alabama
Big Fish location: the ‘witch’s house’: Dicksonia Plantation, Lowndesboro, Alabama | Photograph: Alabama Bureau of Tourism

The ‘witch’s house’ is on the Dicksonia Plantation in Lowndesboro, on Highway 80 about 15 miles west of Montgomery.

’Auburn University’ campus, where Ed goes to find Sandra Templeton (Alison Lohman) is the Gothic Huntingdon College, East Fairview Avenue, in Montgomery itself. Also in the state capital, he demonstrates his prowess at baseball on the football field of Capitol Heights Junior High School, 206 Federal Drive. A few miles to the east, he courageously rescues the doggy from a fire on James Street, Tallassee.

Ed is ‘the biggest thing Ashton had ever seen’ until Karl the Giant (Matthew McGrory) shows up. Karl’s cave is on the banks of the Tallapoosa River at the Lower Boat Ramp behind 2171 Highway 229, Tallassee.

After befriending Karl, Ed is given the Key to the City on the steps of ‘Ashton Courthouse’, which is Elmore County Courthouse, 100 Commerce Street. The parade for Ed and Karl as they leave town, is on East Bridge Street and Court Street, Wetumpka.

Big Fish location: Alabama
Big Fish location: the town of ‘Spectre’ was no more than a set built for the film near Millbrook | Photograph: Alabama Bureau of Tourism


Back in Wetumpka, Ed and Norther (Steve Buscemi) rob the ‘Horizon Savings and Loan Bank’, which is Thames Pharmacy, 121 East Bridge Street, on the outside, and the Old First National Bank Building, on Company Street on the inside. The getaway filmed on Company Street. The ‘Felder Hotel’ is Rose’s Discount Store, 100 Court Street.

Big Fish location: Bibb Graves Bridge, Wetumpka, Alabama
Big Fish location: Willie races with his ailing dad: Bibb Graves Bridge, Wetumpka, Alabama | Photograph: Alabama Bureau of Tourism

There was more filming at Lowndesboro Presbyterian Church, 25 North Broad Street in Lowndesboro.

Willie races the red Dodge Charger with his ailing dad along Commerce Street and over the 1930’s downtown Bibb Graves Bridge, spanning the Coosa River, downtown.

Finally, Ed’s funeral was filmed at Pine Flat Presbyterian Church, Highway 143, in Deatsville, to the northwest of Wetumpka.