10 Houston Bars That Would Make Great Movie Sets
Hey, some bar had to let Tom Cruise practice slinging drinks for Cocktail, right?
Has anyone ever used that old “my life could be a movie” line on you? Have you ever used it on anyone else? Few among us indeed are immune to the occasional daydream that our lives are actually being scripted, and you sure would like the director to yell “Cut!” right about now. And while Houston is no Louisiana (or even Austin) in terms of location filming, it sure is fun to watch movies that were shot here and say, “Hey, I’ve been there!” I mean, nobody really remembers Reality Bites or Urban Cowboy for their hair-trigger plots and exceptional acting, right?
With that in mind, we asked a few of our music contributors to pick a bar they’d like to see on the big screen and tell us what kind of movie they’d like to see there, and maybe even who should star and direct. Let us know which local bars you’d like to see (and what type of movie they’d suit), and maybe we’ll do this again. We seem to have left out Alice’s Tall Texan, for one.
THE BIG EASY SOCIAL & PLEASURE CLUB
Gulf Coast Noir
Big Easy mainstays Luther & the Healers, Tommy Dardar, Rick Lee & the Night Owls, Alan Haynes and others supply the sultry sound track for 12 Bar Blood, an unofficial sequel to Honky Tonk Blood about a scrappy musician (Monday-night regular John Egan) who gets mixed up with the wrong girl who has all the right curves. Unfortunately, her ex-boyfriend is well-placed in the New Orleans mob, and he storms into the club intent on not only winning her back but taking over a piece of the action from the gruff but wily club owner (Tom McClendon, playing himself). When the lovesick hood’s reinforcements from the other Big Easy arrive during the club’s regular Sunday-night zydeco party, the film reaches its pulse-pounding climax with a frenzy of fisticuffs and furious dancing. Miss Trudy Lynn co-stars as Egan’s mentor, a woman with a past who gets over with her powerhouse set of pipes.
Early-‘90s Period Drama
So you've been stuck with the job of finding the right spot to film a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of the currently 1993 grunge music scene, and need a gritty bar for Matt Dillon's band to hobnob around. Never mind that it's 2016 and Dillon is 51, or that the director is obsessively trying to get the fashion and makeup period correct but is failing — you’re going to make sure the bar looks authentic at least, and Lola's Depot will fit the bill just fine. Looking close to how it did 25 years ago, the place has stiff drinks and "colorful" regulars, and one can still smell the faint scent of what could be Sub Pop records melting in the Houston sun. Or maybe it's the residue of thousands of beers soaked into the floor…doesn’t matter. No one else on the film is doing his job well, but you sure as hell will, and Lola's is the perfect location for a grungy rock-bar scene. Now if you can just convince the director that not everyone in 1993 had dreadlocks, this film might not be the train wreck it's looking like it might become.
PJ'S SPORTS BAR
Bill Hicks Biopic
Miloš Forman, who brought us the story of Andy Kaufman with his film Man on the Moon, has announced plans to direct a film about the life of another legendary stand-up comedian who tragically died of cancer, Bill Hicks. Hicks got his start in Houston, and the film’s locations include the actual Nottingham Forest house in the Memorial area where he grew up; Stratford High School, where Hicks graduated in 1980; and Bythe Spirits (now PJ's Sports Bar), where Hicks used to like to loosen up after one of his live performances in town. Forman says he is still scouting other locations for the film, including a place to re-create the Comedy Shop, where Hicks performed some of his early shows, now a dry cleaner at San Felipe and Shepherd. The film’s announcement had not gone without some controversy, as many of Hicks's fans object to the casting of radio-show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in the title role, though these fans do admit there is an unmistakable resemblance between Jones and Hicks.
LONE STAR SALOON
Director Martin Scorsese reunites Goodfellas stars Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci in a new organized-crime film set in Houston. This time around, De Niro and Liotta play a couple of wiseguys in search of Pesci, who ratted out some of their friends back in New Jersey to the Feds and is rumored to have been relocated to Houston in the witness protection program. De Niro and Liotta eventually discover that Pesci has apparently stayed straight and attends weekly mass at downtown Houston’s Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church; in a pivotal scene in the film, they confront a priest played by Paul Sorvino — also from Goodfellas — as to Pesci’s whereabouts at seedy dive bar the Lone Star Saloon, just down the street from the church. Rated R for extreme violence and language.
In Draft Queens, one He-Man Woman Haters Club of a fantasy-football league (Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and Ron Funchess) meets at a scenic downtown Houston sports bar (Christian's Tailgate) to talk shit, drink good beers and enjoy the bar's spacious outdoor patio during fantasy football season. Their manly escape is thrown into turmoil when their football widow wives (Brie Larson, Kerry Washington, Emma Stone and Aubrey Plaza) join the league and kick fantasy ass. Big laughs, interesting social commentary and brilliant close-up shots of Christian's tasty pub foods from director Paul Feig. Rated R.
50 Shades of Bae stars a couple much hipper/sultrier than Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan (use your untamed, lustful imagination, reader). Set behind the blue door of River Oaks’s Marfreless, the alluring decor, delicate lighting, comfy couches and drinks that are super-stiff (snicker) set the mood for some plot no one cares about so long as the fire-hot leads are gettin’ schwifty. This is the movie you really wanted that Grey one to be, set in one of your city’s sexiest, most mysteriously enticing and hard-to-find spots (snicker). Rated NC-17.
RICHMOND ARMS PUB
British Expat Rom-Com
Too-beautiful-to-be-true British expats Emma Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Lily Collins are sent to Houston to learn about the business of large-scale rodeos from the best in the world, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, in Yippee-Kay-Yay, My Dear Chap. The ladies are barrel racers in the British Rodeo Cowboys Association (a real thing!), while the gents represent an entrepreneurial initiative to bring world-class rodeo to London. The homesick quartet congregates regularly to drop a tear in their beers at Richmond Arms Pub, where the Newcastle is poured properly, Stoke City games are aired and the cottage pie is just like Mum used to make. Look out for the scene at Wild West Houston, where the foursome takes a Friday-evening dance lesson in boot-scootin’ (also a real thing!) from hilarious two-step instructors Jack Black and Amy Schumer. Rated PG-13.
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