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On location: Long before Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson used St. John's School as a movie set

Austin Photo Set: News_sam_rushmore locations_june 2012_1
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Austin Photo Set: News_sam_rushmore locations_june 2012_2

Wes Anderson’s films are as well known for their colorful locations and carefully designed sets as their impossibly wise and eternally classy characters.

His latest, Moonrise Kingdom, which recently opened in Houston, substitutes lush Rhode Islands forests for the fictional landscape of New Penzance Island; Darjeeling Limited is as much a stunning tour of India’s countryside as it is an exploration of family dynamics. The Life Aquatic is enhanced by it’s European cityscapes, and The Royal Tenenbaums is an ode to New York City’s old guard.

The A.V. Club launched the second season of Pop Pilgrims — “a travel show for the pop culture enthusiast” — with a trip to St. John’s, the Houston prep school better known as Wes Anderson’s alma mater.

But before Anderson started scouting the globe for locations, he shot his first two features right here in Texas.

Last week, The A.V. Club (the Austin branch of The Onion's arts/entertainment group)  launched the second season of Pop Pilgrims — “a travel show for the pop culture enthusiast” — with a trip to St. John’s, the Houston prep school better known as Wes Anderson’s alma mater. It’s also where he filmed the majority of his second film, 1998’s breakout hit Rushmore.

Juxtaposing clips from the film with shots of modern-day St. John’s, The A.V. Club’s Kyle Ryan shows us that little has changed, save for a few modernizations (more fluorescent lights, fewer blackboards). Pop Pilgrims also visits the house that doubled as Miss Cross’s home / Mr. Blume’s backyard, which is equally recognizable (albeit outfitted with the owner’s less quirky original décor).

Check out Pop Pilgrims’ tour of St. John’s (and read their detailed history of the production here):

Houston: The Rushmore School 

Two years before Rushmore’s release, Anderson shot his debut feature, Bottle Rocket, in the Dallas area. Most of the film, which was co-written by Owen Wilson, takes place at a run-down motel; formerly a Ramada, now a Days Inn franchise, the iconic structure made national headlines last summer when rumors of its financial peril spread across the Internet, prompting a “Save the Bottle Rocket Motel” initiative.

On July 17, the Alamo rolls on up to Hillsboro for the second annual Lovely Soiree benefit and Bottle Rocket screening.

Thanks in large part to Austin’s own Alamo Drafthouse, who held a weekend-long fundraising event including a Rolling Roadshow screening of Anderson’s film, the Days Inn is still in operation.

And on July 17, they’re rolling on up to Hillsboro for the second annual Lovely Soiree benefit and Bottle Rocket screening. Guests are invited to stay for the weekend, taking part in tours, costume contests, giveaways and more.

More info on the Lovely Soiree can be found on the event’s Facebook page, including contact info to book your own room at the Days Inn Hillsboro for the weekend.

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