The reason is simple. Hawaii has become an increasingly popular destination for filming, with TV shows like Hawaii Five-0 complemented by work on 10 films in the state in recent months. Among the attractions filmed on Oahu last year alone were New Line Cinema’s Journey to the Center of the Earth sequel, Journey 2: The Mysterious Mountain; the $200 million Battleship; Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides; and The Descendants.
Kualoa Ranch, with its diverse locales and accommodating ownership, has been a primary destination for many of those shoots. The ranch’s first starring role dates back to 1965 when it was used as a movie backdrop for the film In Harm’s Way, which starred Kirk Douglas, John Wayne and Patricia Neal. In the years since, with operators such as John Morgan keeping careful watch, it has hosted numerous battle scenes, as well as fictitious monsters and prehistoric beasts on the property. Still there to see is arguably the area’s most famous movie site: the fallen tree used as cover by Dr. Alan Grant and the two children in Jurassic Park as a stampede of ostrichlike dinosaurs race to escape a Tyrannosaurus rex.
“Sometimes, when they’re filming back in the valley, the lights are so bright that it wakes the cows up and they think it’s time to start grazing,” says Arnett, who lives with her sports-writer husband, Paul, in a home at the east end of Ka’a’awa Valley, near Oahu’s eastern shore.
After filming, production companies are required to return the land to its original state (to use the ranch, they have to pay $2,500 per day or more, not including the cost of returning it to its former condition, if any part of the site is affected). For example, craters opened by explosions are refilled, trees are replanted, gouged turf is replaced. And any scenes requiring any kind of a mark on the land are carefully scripted, Morgan says, with decisions made to ensure that especially sensitive areas are not affected.
“The movie business is just amazing, the amount of planning for one thing, the time, effort and money that goes into things,” Morgan says. “Their budgets — somebody is sitting down at a desk doing that. I’ve got so much admiration for the people in the film business, their creativity and their expertise at what they do.”
Of course, some landmarks, such as Godzilla’s footprints and Hurley’s “golf course” from Lost, have left an indelible footprint, in both our minds and our hearts. And, lucky for us, they’ll always be there for us to see.