On June 10, Lisa Trifone rerouted her downtown walking tour to avoid areas being used for the filming of “Rampage,” an action movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Her group was unphased by the detours; they were on a movie tour, after all.
Trifone is a tour guide with the Chicago branch of Free Tours by Foot, a group of licensed and local tour guides that offers pay-what-you-like walking tours in cities in the United States and abroad. Visitors are asked to pay what they feel the tour deserves at the end. The group has been operating at a national scale for six years and at its Chicago branch for four years.
The Saturday morning tour, On Location: Movies and Filming in Chicago, had 14 people in attendance and is one of eight different tours offered by the company. All tours are about two hours in length and cover a distance of one to two miles. Visitors reserve spots online beforehand.
During the tour, Trifone touched on more than 20 movies filmed in Chicago. She said the list is divided into three categories: movies set but not completely filmed in the city, movies set and filmed in the city but set elsewhere.
“We have a bustling film industry but we don’t have a studio city like Hollywood,” Trifone said. “This works really well. You’re embedded in the city… there’s so much [to see] when you’re steeped in the city doing a walking tour versus doing that on set.”
The tour began on North Wabash Street and continued along the riverwalk when it hit its first roadblock. Above, production crews shut down West Wacker Drive for filming, forcing the group to wait to cross the street and continue its tour.
“A lot of the filming in Chicago is [done] on the streets, so we’re doing our own studio tour in the sense that every inch of the city is our studio,” Chicago tour manager Mel Yonzon said.
As the group waited, Trifone spoke about the buildings along the riverfront that were used in various movies. She pointed out the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, where Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her peers chose their factions in “Divergent” and 77 W. Wacker Drive where a desperate Julianne Potter (Julia Roberts) sent a false email to get her friend fired in “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”
“I just like to think I’m walking on sidewalks where Julia Roberts has walked,” Trifone said.
Trifone pointed out the Marina City Towers, where a car was driven off the side of the parking garage and into the river for the 1980 Steve McQueen movie, “The Hunter.”
Trifone said that there are so many movies, films and TV shows she could discuss, but there wasn’t enough time for each one.
The tour continued to Daley Plaza and ended at Federal Plaza, but not before stopping near the Chicago Board of Trade to discuss iconic scenes from Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” The scene where the Joker (Heath Ledger) attacks the funeral procession of the police commissioner and later confronts Batman in a Batpod-versus-semi truck showdown was filmed on South LaSalle Street. Spoiler alert: the Batpod wins and flips the semi truck head over tail in a shot that was not created by CGI, according to Trifone.
Many of these titles and scenes were familiar to the group, which nodded along to Trifone’s examples and shared its own favorite scenes. Trifone said she gets a mix of foreign and native tourists in her movie tours, which she considers a next-level experience compared to tourist spots such as Millennium Park and Magnificent Mile.
“I think it’s interesting the type of people that are drawn to this tour,” said Sydney Yockey, a sophomore studying radio, television and film at Northwestern University. “It’s not just people who are in the industry, but people who recognize landmarks from films and want to know more about it.”
Other tours offered by Free Tours by Foot Chicago explore neighborhoods such as North Loop or Gold Coast and delve into the city’s history, culture and architecture. Movie tours are offered over the weekend, but the company provides other tours every day year-round.