Feature film set in Lawrence won’t be shot here … again

Kansas bypassed because state doesn't offer tax incentives

A fictional Kansas University doctoral student takes the lead in the soon-to-be-shooting movie “The City of Your Final Destination,” which boasts a cast featuring Anthony Hopkins and Laura Linney.

At no point will that final destination include the city of Lawrence, however.

Once again, production of a feature film that’s set in Lawrence has bypassed the city in favor of another location to use as its double. In this case, Boulder, Colo., will serve as Lawrence’s geographic impostor.

“(Merchant Ivory Productions) did ask for university stills, and we gave that to them. And that was it,” said Peter S. Jasso, director of the Kansas Film Commission. “There wasn’t even any discussion of ‘What can you offer us?’ When that happens I immediately assume they’re contacting us for research purposes, as opposed to a serious inquiry. When you get a film like ‘The Ice Harvest’ or some of the Truman Capote films, they’ll contact you looking for a location. But what they’re really looking for are pictures to match it.”

Jasso said the reason Kansas is often bypassed by larger productions is purely financial.

“All things being equal, they would shoot where the film takes place. But there are at least 36 states that have tax incentives and we do not,” he said. Colorado charges no sales or use tax on film company services.

The end result won’t necessarily mean characters in the film will be standing on Jayhawk Boulevard shadowed by mountains in the background.

“I know they were looking for pretty tight shots, like an Indian restaurant,” Jasso recalled. “In that scenario – and to the rest of America – any college would probably do.”

“The City of Your Final Destination” is based on the novel by Peter Cameron about an Iranian KU student who heads to South America to pen a biography of author Jules Gund.

The movie is directed by James Ivory and written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the tag team responsible for 1990s “Mr. & Mrs. Bridge,” which was shot in Kansas City.

“The last time we had a major movie set here in Lawrence, ‘About Schmidt,’ it was filmed in Nebraska,” said KU spokesman Todd Cohen.

Cohen said he is often contacted by Hollywood studios looking for KU materials or paraphernalia. In fact, there is a big-budget comedy looming on the horizon to which he recently contributed goods.

“It’s a movie with Jessica Simpson called ‘Blonde Ambition,’ where her character is supposed to be a KU honor student. Then she goes to the ‘big city’ and purifies it in some way.”

“Blonde Ambition” is being shot in Louisiana.

Cohen said his department keeps a list of all the KU references exhibited in movies. But when Hollywood takes charge, these are often more of a curse than a blessing.

“Remember ‘The Secret of My Success’ with Michael J. Fox?” Cohen asked. “He played a KU graduate and a Jayhawks fan who kept wearing a K-State shirt.”