Making its premiere this weekend in Utah theaters is a fact-based film about a lone Utah climber, inching down a narrow, red-rock chasm when an 800-pound boulder breaks loose, crushes his arm and pins him in place.
The story for "127 Hours" was provided by Aron Ralston, the outdoorsman who survived the 2003 accident by amputating his own arm with a dull camping knife. The title comes from the hours that passed between his near-deadly entrapment and his dramatic self-rescue.
And the natural stone backdrop -- swirled strata of reddish orange, russet and mauve brown -- that came courtesy of Utah. The Moab area, to be more specific, just outside Canyonlands National Park.
"127 Hours," starring James Franco and directed by Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire"), created 150 jobs and pumped about $14 million into the state's economy during the film's 50-day shoot, according to the Utah Film Commission.
A tidy sum, to be sure, but not an isolated incident.
Utah has been hosting Hollywood film crews since before the talkies found their voice. Hollywood's first Western megastar, Tom Mix, made "The Deadwood Coach" (now lost) in 1924.
James D'Arc chronicles the state's film history in his new book, "When Hollywood Came to Town: A History of Moviemaking in Utah" (Gibbs Smith, $30).
"I was born in Southern California, so I think I have film DNA in my blood," joked D'Arc, who came to Utah to attend Brigham Young University and never left. D'Arc is the longtime curator of the BYU Motion Picture Archives, which boasts prints of more than 400 films and the donated personal papers of such Hollywood elite as Jimmy Stewart.
D'Arc's book is the product of more than 20 years of work. He conducted interviews and researched historical print accounts of Hollywood film productions around the state.
"I think of it as the second wave of pioneers," D'Arc said. "First, the Mormon pioneers came to Utah, then a few key people got Hollywood filmmakers to come here in a kind of reverse migration."
The early players were the Parry brothers. As a young man, Gronway Parry worked briefly in Southern Utah and returned after college to open multiple businesses, which he recruited his brothers to help run.
Access to scenic areas was restricted by the limited roads, so the Parrys opened a tourist transportation company and put up guests in their own hotel.
Gronway and Chauncey Parry made trips to Los Angeles to drum up business, and made friends with Will Rogers, Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable.
Mix asked the Parrys to arrange a few location trips and decided to film "The Deadwood Coach" in Zion National Park and surrounding locations.
With limited jobs and agricultural failures in the area, local residents jumped at the opportunity to earn money. Mix and his crew were struck by Southern Utah's natural beauty, and with the warmth and helpfulness of residents.
Utah began growing a reputation as a friendly and scenic place to shoot a film, D'Arc said.
Host to 800
Since the early days, more than 800 Hollywood films, television films and TV series episodes have shot wholly or partially in Utah. Within that number are the 89 episodes of "Everwood," which used Ogden's Historic 25th Street for exteriors, and the 212 episodes of "Touched by an Angel."
The film list includes "Rio Grande," "Western Union," "My Friend Flicka," "Planet of the Apes" (1968 and 2001), "Easy Rider," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Back to the Future III," "Footloose," "Thelma and Louise" and "Independence Day."
Ogden films have included "Three O'Clock High" and "Drive Me Crazy."
"Southern Utah even stood in for the Middle East in 'The Greatest Story Ever Told,' " D'Arc said.
Likewise, Dixie National Forest stood in for upstate New York in "Drums Along the Mowhawk," with Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda. A field in Parowan played a Chinese rice paddy in "The Good Earth." A plateau near Cedar City, high enough to hide the red rock beyond, played 1860s Illinois in "The Proud Rebel," with Olivia de Havilland and Alan Ladd.
"Utah has played other planets in a number of films," D'Arc said. "Utah locations have been used to portray places all over our world, and even beyond our world."
Northern Utah saw its role in productions rise after the decline of the Western genre, D'Arc said. Northern Utah cities have stood in for many urban areas, he said.
As a student, D'Arc had a hard time narrowing his interests. He was fascinated not only by film, but also by politics, economics, history and other topics.
"Studying film has allowed me to study all my areas of interest," he said. Through reading accounts of film shoots, he has learned about struggling Utah communities saved by an influx of Hollywood money. He's learned about political maneuvering that forced businessmen to become more creative and cut some communities out of the lucrative film business.
Put together, the historic "snapshots" in his book provide a revealing look at Southern Utah in the early to mid 1900s.
Leigh von der Esch, managing director of the Utah offices of Tourism and Film, is impressed by "When Hollywood Came to Town."
"Jim pays tribute not only to the great movies shot in Utah, but also to the great people of Utah," she said. "The trivia is fantastic, and the anecdotes add richness to the book. I am utterly amazed."
Author and film expert E. Hunter Hale, who helps program silent films at Salt Lake City's The Organ Loft, said he's been waiting for D'Arc to finish the book.
"I watched Jim work on this for years, and got a copy the first day it came out," Hale said. "It is so much more than I expected to be, which is typical of Jim D'Arc and everything he does. The book is a treasure trove for movie posters alone, and gives the reader an understanding of why Hollywood loved not only the scenery but the people of Southern Utah."
Visiting filmmakers have done more than provide an economic boost to the state, D'Arc said.
"They've really introduced Utah to the world," he said. "We get tourists from around the world, and many of them will tell you they saw a John Wayne Western, or a more recent movie, and wanted to see where it was filmed. The positive impression the state makes on these people is because of motion pictures."
Some films shot wholly or partially in Utah:
* "Back to the Future III" (1990), Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd
* "Cujo" (1983), Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly
* "Desperate Hours" (1990), Mickey Rourke, Anthony Hopkins
* "Dumb and Dumber" (1994), Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels
* "Easy Rider" (1969), Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper
* "Exorcist II: The Heretic" (1977), Linda Blair, Richard Burton
* "Galaxy Quest" (1999), Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver
* "Grand Canyon" (1991), Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Steve Martin
* "Halloween" 4, 5, 6 and H2O (1988-2002), Donald Pleasence appeared in "Halloween" 4, 5 and 6, and Jamie Lee Curtis appeared in "Halloween H2O."
* "Halloweentown High" (2004), Debbie Reynolds
* "High School Musical" and sequels (2006, 2007, 2008), Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens
* "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (2000), Jim Carrey, Christine Baranski
* "The Hulk" (2003), Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott
* "Legally Blonde II" (2003), Reese Witherspoon
* "The Man Who Would Be King" (1975), Sean Connery, Michael Caine
* "The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing" (1973), Burt Reynolds, Sarah Miles
* "Mission: Impossible II" (2000), Tom Cruise
* "Mulholland Falls" (1996), Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, Treat Williams
* "National Treasure" (2004), Nicolas Cage
* "Nurse Betty" (2000), RenÃ©e Zellweger, Aaron Eckhart
* "Octopussy" (1983), Roger Moore
* "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (2007), Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley
* "Planet of the Apes," 1986, Charlton Heston; and 2001, Mark Wahlberg
* "Romancing the Stone" (1984), Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner
* "The Ten Commandments" (1956), Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner
* "Thelma & Louise" (1991), Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis
* "Waiting to Exhale" (1995), Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett
* "Wall Street" (1987), Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen
BEHIND THE SCENES
Here are a few anecdotes drawn from James D'Arc's book, "When Hollywood Came to Town: A History of Moviemaking in Utah."
* For "Union Pacific," shot in 1938 Cedar City, Helen Parry, wife of successful businessman Chauncey Parry, was hired and made up to play an old washerwoman. The director had to stop production to ask Helen Parry to take off her large diamond ring.
* "The Good Earth," shot in Parowan in 1936, took advantage of a grasshopper infestation. The film company paid locals to collect 18,000 pounds of live grasshoppers for use in scenes about a locust plague in the rice paddies of China.
* "Brigham Young" (1940), film crews hoped to shoot near the shores of Utah Lake to capture the pioneer scene of seagulls arriving to devour the crickets that were destroying vital crops. The film crew scattered meat and fish in an attempt to attract seagulls, but the birds could not be lured.
John A. Widtsoe, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, arrived and said a prayer, which, according to witnesses, brought flocks of gulls for the scene.
* "In Old Arizona" (1929), director Raoul Walsh sped back to Los Angeles after the sound truck broke down, and the headlights of his car startled a jack rabbit, which jumped on the windshield. Walsh was showered with shards of glass. Doctors at Salt Lake City's Holy Cross Hospital had to remove his right eye, and his trademark in later years became a fashionable eye patch.
* Utah-shot "Ramrod" premiered in Salt Lake City in 1947, and to honor the film's star, mayor Earl J. Glade signed a proclamation making his town Veronica Lake City, after the star.
* Rod Steiger starred in "Run of the Arrow" (1957), which called for a fort to burn to the ground. Technicians soaked the structure with 500 gallons of kerosene, and an actress collapsed before escaping a burning building, so Steiger ran in and saved her. Their costumes caught fire as he dragged her from the blaze.
* Chauncey Parry's daughter, Louise, recalled the shooting of a scene in "They Came to Condura" (1959), which called for a serious scene followed by an actor's pants falling down. The pants would not perform on cue, so the pockets were filled with rocks. Despite the seriousness of the scene, everyone was in hysterics, Louise Parry recalled.
* The principal cast of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) would often dine at Dick's Cafe in St. George. A waitress recalled that Newman, the future salad dressing magnate, would request ingredients and make salad and dressing for the table.
* "Brigham Young" director Fritz Lang told Dean Jagger, playing the film's title role, not to smoke, drink or consume tea or coffee in public during the Utah shoot. "Emulating Brigham Young certainly has its drawbacks," Lang reportedly said.
* "The Desperadoes" (1942) required a horse stampede. Fifty cowboys were hired to gather more than 600 horses from ranches within a 100-mile radius of Kanab.
* "Sergeants 3" (1962) starred the infamous Rat Pack -- Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis Jr. Kanab parents warned their children to stay away from the Hollywood "bad boys," but the men were well-behaved except for one water fight, with hoses, that damaged the Parry Lodge.
Sinatra tipped one boy $100 for helping in the kitchen of his rented house. Sinatra also donated gymnasium equipment, football uniforms and a tractor to maintain the football field to Kanab High School. The men flew out every weekend to perform their Las Vegas show.
* The Kane County locations of "Western Union" (1940) were deemed too colorful for Technicolor by director Fritz Lang, who had his crew spray paint a rock wall to tone down its intensity.
-- Nancy Van Valkenburg
Here are films, screening free as part of the Brigham Young University Motion Picture Archives Film Series. Shows are at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30) in the auditorium of the Harold B. Lee Library, BYU, Provo.
Dec. 3: "Kit Carson" (1940, shot in Utah), a Western with Jon Hall, Lynn Bari and Dana Andrews.
Jan. 29: "The Big Sleep" (1931), a detective story with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
Feb. 26: "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" (1947), a fantasy about a widow sharing her home with a cantankerous ghost, with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison.
March 26: "Good Morning, Miss Dove" (1955), about a strict teacher and her students, with Jennifer Jones and Robert Stack.
April 9: "Babes in Toyland" (1934), a story set in a nursery tale land, with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
May 28: "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946), about three veterans returning to changed circumstances after World War II, with Myrna Loy and Fredric March.