Jul. 21—In season one of "Ted Lasso," a comedy about an American football coach taking the reins of a British premier soccer club, Jason Sudeikis wears a Kansas City T-shirt, licks a finger dipped into a bottle of Arthur Bryant's Original barbecue sauce and talks of his (and his character's) hometown time and again.
"You know, this right here is some of the best barbecue sauce in Kansas City," Ted tells his new boss, "which makes it some of the best barbecue sauce in the world."
But viewers only get brief tastes of Kansas City, never a scene shot in the real deal in this award-winning series set in London. (Season two premiered July 23 on Apple TV+.)
Same holds true for the Netflix thriller "Ozark," in which only a few scenes were shot in the actual Ozarks of southern Missouri. When the drug and money laundering activities of Marty and Wendy Byrde (played by Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) bring them up against the Kansas City mob, the script calls for the couple to travel to Kansas City and later to the tony Country Club Plaza.
In reality, it was shot in Atlanta.
So, too, for the latest season of "Fargo," starring Chris Rock. The whole season four narrative takes place in what's supposed to be 1950s Kansas City. It was filmed in Chicago.
One problem, said film commissioner Steph Shannon, director of the Kansas City Film Office, is that although Kansas City itself offers movie and television production teams some mild financial incentives, neither the state of Missouri nor Kansas currently offers anything. Missouri used to offer incentives, but its program ended in 2013 and has yet to be renewed.
The last big movie to receive the Missouri tax break was the 2014 blockbuster "Gone Girl," much of it shot around Cape Girardeau (standing in as the fictional North Carthage, Missouri). The screenplay was written by Kansas City native Gillian Flynn, based on her best-selling novel.
The 2017 movie "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," (winner of two Academy Awards) wasn't even filmed in Missouri, but instead was shot way outside, near Asheville, North Carolina.
Thus, Shannon said, Kansas, Missouri and Kansas City perennially lose out on the financial and publicity bumps that come with location shoots that end up going to other states.
The makers of "Fargo" have previously told The Star that incentives were part of their reasoning, but also, they said, Chicago had more old architecture to work with. Whatever. Either way, KC was elbowed aside by the City of the Big Shoulders.
In 2018, HBO released "Sharp Objects," the murder mystery starring Amy Adams and based on Flynn's 2006 novel, set in the fictional Wind Gap, Missouri. Shannon tried to get them to shoot in Kansas City. California and Georgia got the business.
"We lose work all the time," said Shannon, who continues to try to get state incentives reinstated. "They couldn't film any of it here because it wasn't good business."
That said, Kansas City has had moments on both the small and big screen over the years. The Kansas City Film Office lists more than 100 shows filmed in the area. They range from TV reality shows (such as "Queer Eye," seasons three and four in 2019) to documentaries (2016's "Big Sonia," about a local Holocaust survivor) to independent movies ("Different Flowers," a 2017 sister adventure by native Kansas Citian Morgan Dameron) to feature TV and Hollywood films.
Here's a sampling of movies and TV shows related to the Kansas City area. You may be surprised how few were actually filmed here:
— "In Cold Blood": The 1967 film, based on Truman Capote's best-selling book, tells the true story of the unprovoked murder in 1959 of the four members of the Clutter family in western Kansas. Robert Blake and Scott Wilson star as killers Perry Smith and Richard Hickock. Kansas City gets some time on camera. And the Kansas scenes were filmed on location, in Garden City and in nearby Holcomb, where the murders occurred.
— "Kansas City Bomber": It's 1972, and Raquel Welch, in a low-cut, tight roller derby uniform, plays K.C. Carr, the "hottest thing on wheels," as the film's promo says. She gets traded from her Kansas City team to the Portland Loggers. Drama ensues with some of the movie filmed in Kansas City at a real area roller derby venue.
— "Paper Moon": Nope, sorry. This 1973 Oscar winner, starring Ryan and daughter Tatum O'Neal — about a Depression-era con man stuck on the road with a girl who may or may not be his daughter — was filmed in multiple locations in Kansas, with shots in towns such as Hays, McCracken, Gorham and White Cloud. Filming occurred in St. Joseph, but the road trip did not include Kansas City.
— "The Day After": The 1983 TV movie, starring Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams, John Lithgow and Steve Guttenberg, tells the story of residents of Lawrence, Kansas City and several area family farms as the United States and the Warsaw Pact nations unleash a full nuclear attack on each other. Great shots of Union Station from the top of Liberty Memorial, which later, fictionally, gets turned to rubble, and of the makeshift hospital of despair at Allen Fieldhouse.
— "Article 99": Released in 1992, this medical movie with Kiefer Sutherland, Ray Liotta, Lea Thompson and Forest Whitaker was shot at the former St. Mary's Hospital, overlooking Liberty Memorial. The movie trailer ends with a shot of rows of tombstones superimposed near the memorial.
— "Truman": A 1995 Gary Sinise TV movie about the 33rd president and not to be confused with "The Truman Show" (1998 with Jim Carrey) was partly filmed in Truman's hometown of Independence.
— "Casino": Sorry. This 1995 Martin Scorcese mob movie, with Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci, definitely talks of Kansas City. Las Vegas gambling money, Pesci's character says, was going "right to Kansas City, which is as close to Las Vegas as the Midwest bosses could go without getting themselves arrested." Scenes ostensibly taking place in Kansas City were not shot here.
— "Kansas City": Better hope that this 1996 film, directed by Kansas City-born director Robert Altman (he died in 2006), about Kansas City in its wide-open 1930s jazz and gangster heyday, would actually be shot in Kansas City. It was, and some of its facades can still be seen in the 18th & Vine Jazz District.
— "Ride With the Devil": This 1999 film by director Ang Lee (He'd later win an Oscar for "Life of Pi") stars Tobey Maguire, not yet of Spider-Man fame. Set during the Civil War, it centers on Missouri bushwhackers, guerrillas loyal to the Confederacy. The film, which also marks the feature film debut of the singer Jewel, was shot in Sibley and Pattonsburg, Missouri, but also in Kansas City — Missouri and Kansas.
— "C.S.A.: Confederate States of America": Released in 2004, and directed by University of Kansas film professor Kevin Willmott, the feature film explores an alternative reality: America if the Confederacy had won the Civil War. Kansas City's skyline is prominent in the movie trailer, but does not play a role in the film, although nearby Lawrence does. Willmott's 1999 film, "Ninth Street," about his hometown of Junction City, Kansas, in 1968, was shot there and in Lawrence. In 2019, Willmott, together with director Spike Lee and others, took away an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for their film "BlacKkKlansman" — set in Colorado Springs but shot in New York.
— "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford": Released in 2007, it stars Brad Pitt, who grew up in Springfield, Missouri, and is about outlaw Jesse James, born in Kearney, Missouri, just north of Kansas City. Still, no, this major motion picture, with Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, was filmed nowhere close. Filming took place in Alberta, Canada.
— "The Good Lie": This 2014 Reese Witherspoon film is about Sudanese refugees who make a new home for themselves in Kansas City. Lives change when they meet Witherspoon, an employment counselor. A supposed scene at Kansas City International Airport, with passengers descending an escalator, tells locals they're not at single-level KCI. One scene — a car driving into downtown Kansas City — does briefly show our skyline. The film was shot in Atlanta and South Africa.
— "Dirty Money": 2018 documentary on Netflix that examines a series of financial criminals, including Kansas City payday loan magnate and race car driver Scott Tucker. Federal prosecutors said he used exorbitant fees to exploit some 4.5 million payday loan borrowers out of some $3.5 billion. Convicted in 2017, Tucker currently is serving 16 years in federal prison. Several scenes in the segment "Payday" were shot inside Tucker's Leawood home.
— "Transhood": This 2020 HBO documentary, by Overland Park filmmaker Sharon Liese, follows four transgender teens over five years. The teens include Avery Jackson of Kansas City, whom The Star profiled in 2016 when Avery was age 6. Avery would later be featured on the cover of National Geographic. Liese also directed other documentaries that feature the Kansas City area, including TV's "High School Confidential" (2008), "The Gnomist" (2015) and one episode in the TV series "Pink Collar Crimes" (2018).
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