Reese Witherspoon movie 'Wild' films in Vancouver

Actress portrays Portland author Cheryl Strayed as Uptown Village becomes Reno

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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photoA telephone pole outside Paul's restaurant is emblazoned with fake Reno advertisements as part of the outdoor set design for the film "Wild," which is based on a Portland author's memoir about hiking through the Pacific Crest Trail.

(/The Columbian)

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Reese Witherspoon stepped out of a Frontier Adventures bus parked in front of the Elbow Room on Broadway. After pausing on the sidewalk for a moment, she adjusted the large hiking pack on her back and walked inside the bar.

"CUT!" someone yelled before a C-Tran bus passed through the movie set.

A corner of Vancouver's Uptown Village was transformed into Reno, Nev., on Thursday night for the 37-year-old actress's latest film, "Wild." The film is based on Portland author Cheryl Strayed's bestselling memoir of personal crisis and growth as she travels more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in the wake of her divorce and her mother's death.

Filming took place at the bar inside Paul's Restaurant, 1800 Broadway. Crews selected the long-standing site to stand in for a part in the film that's supposed to take place at a restaurant in Reno. In the book, Strayed bypasses a section of the trail in the High Sierra that's packed with snow, detouring through Reno.

As crew members set up the film, they swapped out C-Tran bus stop signs for "Frontier Adventures" signs and covered a telephone pole with advertisements for Reno attractions.

Paul's is the only Washington location for the film, according to location manager Bobby Warberg. Strayed's journey started in the Mojave Desert and ended at the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, Ore.

Director Jean-Marc Vallée started filming in Oregon a month ago, making stops at Crater Lake, Ashland and Bend, said publicist Toni Atterbury. Witherspoon has been posting photographs of her journeys in the Pacific Northwest on her website.

The movie crew secured special-event permits with the city of Vancouver that cordoned off about a five-block area around the restaurant that affected parking and traffic, said Stacy Donovan of the city manager's office. Flaggers didn't allow any vehicles to roll by Paul's Restaurant during filming because Strayed's travels take place in 1995. The small-town feel to Paul's Restaurant and the bus stop next to its parking lot best matched the scene from the book, Donovan said.

"Right now we just see it as great PR for having a film of this magnitude being shot here," she said, adding that she hopes crew members patronize local businesses. With more exposure, she said, the city has a better chance of attracting other large film companies (and gaining bragging rights).

A small crowd of onlookers and stragglers from the bar lingered on the sidewalk across the street to watch the actress do multiple takes of the scene. Tara Hambleton works down the street at Beauty by TaraLee and noticed the film crew setting up near her business.

"I love her … she's been around for quite awhile," Hambleton said of Witherspoon, adding that she was excited to see local filming of a big-box production.

Hambleton called one of her clients, Katie Koppes, a big fan of the actress. She was in bed wearing her pajamas at the time, but quickly put together a pink ensemble — a tribute to Witherspoon's earlier film "Legally Blonde."

"We want her to come and say hi to us," Koppes said as she watched and shivered from the street corner.

The cast and crew are scheduled to return to Paul's Restaurant on Nov. 15 to complete filming. A potential release date for "Wild" hasn't been determined.