Welcome back to Florida Wonders, a series where Tampa Bay Times journalists answer your questions.
We’ve been inviting readers to submit questions they want our reporters to research, using Hearken’s community engagement tool. Readers then voted on the question they wanted us to write about.
Reader John Holecek sent his question over the weekend after hearing about the death of Wilford Brimley. The actor died at the age of 85 in a Utah hospital. He was well known for his role in the 1985 film Cocoon, which was shot in St. Petersburg.
“I’d love to know more about the movies filmed in the Tampa Bay area like Cocoon,” Holecek wrote to Florida Wonders.
A number of well-known films can be traced back to Tampa Bay. Here are some of the standouts:
Cocoon (1985 )
In Cocoon, a group of seniors becomes invigorated with youthful energy after swimming in an alien-infested pool. Ron Howard directed the Academy Award-winning film.
To create the fictional town of Sunset Beach, filming took place over 11 weeks in and around St. Petersburg. Scenes were shot at the Snell Arcade, St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club, Suncoast Manor retirement community (now Westminster Shores) and the Coliseum.
Summer Rental (1985)
Summer Rental is the story of an overworked air traffic controller (John Candy) who is told to take a long break on his company’s dime. He heads to fictional town Citrus Cove. Misadventures ensue. The Carl Reiner-directed comedy was filmed on and around Pinellas County’s beaches.
Filming locations include the now-closed Beach Theatre in St. Pete Beach, Redington Shores and John’s Pass. Yacht Club scenes were shot on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg.
The Parent Trap II (1986)
The original 1961 film was about twins who play matchmaker for their divorced parents. The made-for-television sequel takes place 25 years later, when the daughter of one of those twins tries to connect her mother with her best friend’s dad. It was filmed around Tampa, including Mitchell Elementary School and the Tampa Tribune newsroom.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
In Edward Scissorhands, the titular character (played by Johnny Depp) has to live with scissors for hands after his inventor died before giving him real hands. Edward goes to live with a family after a suburban mother discovers him. He ends up falling in love with the family’s teenage daughter (Winona Ryder).
Tim Burton’s fantasy romance film was shot in locations in Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel, Lutz and Dade City. Over 40 Pasco residents made their homes available during filming. To create a surreal suburban neighborhood, houses in the Carpenters Run subdivision in Lutz were painted in pastel colors like pink, green, yellow and blue. Crews shrunk the windows on each home and removed shrubs and trees that Burton disliked. Lakeland’s Southgate Shopping Center also had a cameo.
Burton told the then-St. Petersburg Times that he surveyed a lot of Florida subdivisions before picking Carpenters Run.
“It just had the look we were looking for,” he said. “I liked the sky — with nice large white clouds — and the look of the neighborhood.”
The house used for the family home in Edward Scissorhands, which since underwent a complete remodel, recently went on the market for $224,000. .
Martin Scorsese’s crime flick about mob associate Henry Hill is regarded as one of the best films of all time. Florida’s brief moment of fame: a scene where Hill (Ray Liotta) and James Conway (Robert De Niro) dangle a man upside down over the lion’s den at “Tampa City Zoo” to collect a gambling debt. The scene was shot at Lowry Park Zoo, now known as ZooTampa at Lowry Park.
Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)
The action comedy starred Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and Joe Pesci. Most of this film was shot in Orlando, but the final explosive scene was shot in St. Petersburg as the 68-year-old Soreno Hotel was blown up.
Warner Bros. said it planned the explosion only after learning that the hotel on Beach Drive NE and First Avenue was already slated for demolition. Stunt doubles were used in place of Gibson and Glover. Five thousand spectators watched as the building exploded into clouds of smoke and flame.
Cop and a Half (1993)
In this buddy cop comedy directed by Henry Winkler, Burt Reynolds and an 8-year-old solve a murder investigation. Filming locations included Tampa’s D. W. Waters Career Center and Dade City. There was also a car chase scene in downtown Tampa.
Ocean’s 11 (2001)
Steven Soderbergh’s heist film had only a handful of scenes shot in Florida. The most memorable: when Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) visits St. Petersburg’s Derby Lane to persuade Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner) to participate in their Las Vegas heist.
The Punisher (2004)
The comic book action movie is about FBI agent Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) as he transforms into vigilante antihero the Punisher. John Travolta starred as crime lord Howard Saint.
The Punisher was shot on location in Tampa and also included scenes at Honeymoon Island and Fort De Soto Park. In an interview with CBR.com, screenwriter Michael France said shooting in Florida was important to him in order to have both sunny scenes and darker locations.
Jane told the Tampa Bay Times in 2013 that the daily thunderstorms were his favorite part of shooting in Tampa.
Grace Is Gone (2007)
John Cusack starred in this drama about a man who goes on a road trip with his two young daughters after his wife dies during a tour of duty in Iraq.
Filming locations included Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven and Plant City. Beach scenes were filmed at Fort De Soto Park.
Dolphin Tale (2011)
The family drama is based on the true story of Winter, the bottlenose dolphin that lost its tail and was nursed back to health by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. A star-studded cast included Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr. and Kris Kristofferson.
The first day of filming took place at the Long Center recreation complex in Clearwater. The cast also filmed at Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium was featured, though a sign was changed to read “Clearwater Marine Hospital.”
Magic Mike (2012)
Channing Tatum drew from his own experience when playing a male stripper in Magic Mike. Tatum (who graduated from Tampa Catholic High School in 1998) was a teenage exotic dancer.
“This is just me growing up in Tampa, loving it,” Tatum told the Tampa Bay Times in 2012. “I was an 18-year-old kid thrown in with these crazy men who had been stripping for a long time, kind of losing themselves. I probably lost myself for a little while.”
The film showcases a variety of locations, from Tarpon Springs to Treasure Island. The exterior of Wilson’s Sports Lounge in St. Petersburg became Xquisite, the Dale Mabry nightclub where Mike and his friends perform. Other standouts include Caddy’s on the Beach, the Pinellas Bayway, Three Rooker Bar in Tarpon Springs and the Amphitheatre in Ybor.
Spring Breakers (2012)
Harmony Korine’s A24 film follows a group of friends (Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine, plus former Disney actors Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez) who rob a restaurant to fund a spring break vacation. After partying in St. Petersburg, the gang is bailed out of jail by drug dealer Alien (James Franco), who draws them into his world of crime.
Before shooting, Franco spent time around town with St. Petersburg rapper Russell “Dangeruss” Curry to get inspiration for his character. Shots include the Sunshine Skyway bridge, the Beach Theatre marquee, the Redington Long Pier and Gandy Bridge. School scenes were filmed at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, and the police station scene was filmed in Gulfport.
The parking lot of Captain’s Food Store on Gulf Boulevard in St. Pete Beach was featured, though the sign was changed to read Sunshine Food & Gifts. There’s also a cone-shaped Twistee Treat ice cream shop.
The Infiltrator (2016)
This biographical crime drama is based on the autobiography of U.S. Customs special agent Robert Mazur. Bryan Cranston starred as Mazur as he busted Pablo Escobar’s money-laundering operation. Diane Kruger and John Leguizamo also are in the film.
The Infiltrator hits a lot of classic locations that locals love: the tree-lined streets of Hyde Park, Tampa International Airport, Cephas Hot Shop Restaurant in Ybor, the exterior of 2001 Odyssey Strip Club and the Tampa Theatre. There’s a drug bust at Port Tampa Bay, a rooftop deck meeting at the Don CeSar Hotel and a drive-by shooting by Alpine Liquor after a visit to Derby Lane in St. Petersburg.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
Tim Burton directed this fantasy film based on the 2011 young adult novel by Ransom Riggs. The plot revolves around a boy named Jacob (Asa Butterfield) who finds a magical place for children with special powers.
Burton’s return to the region featured shoots in Sun City Center, Largo, Treasure Island and Gibsonton. Shots of the Selmon Expressway were omitted, but the Gandy Bridge made it into the final cut.
The One and Only Ivan (2020)
A hybrid CGI and live-action film, The One and Only Ivan will premiere on Disney+ on Aug. 14. Sam Rockwell stars as a gorilla named Ivan, who is talented at painting and yearns to be free. Danny DeVito voices a dog named Bob, Angelina Jolie voices Stella the elephant, and Bryan Cranston plays Mack the mall owner, who uses the creatures in his show.
Exterior scenes were shot around Polk County, including at the Silver Moon Drive-In, Dobbins Park and the Southgate Shopping Center (seen as Big Top Mall in the film).
Information from IMDb and Tampa Bay Times archives was used in this report.
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correction: A previous version of this article stated the Ocean's 11 scene filmed at Derby Lane incorrectly included George Clooney.