Puerto Vallarta and the Silver Screen

Matthew Kirk

vallarta pantalla

It was inevitable that such an idyllic virgin destination, as Banderas bay and the originally small town of Puerto Vallarta would not remain undiscovered forever. So desirable, so enchanting, it was destined, from its creation, to become an international playground for the rich and famous and be shared with the world on the silver screen.

vallarta pantallaLegendary film director John Huston, in the 60's, was the first to have the vision, the contacts and the movie in making, to entice the likes of Richard Burton, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor here, despite the obvious lack of infrastructure, to film the movie ''The night of the Iguana''.

Huston saw the raw potential of this rugged coastal hideaway and the multitude of Hollywood stars that he brought with him fell completely in love with the abundance of natural beauty and magical views, despite the lack of creature comforts the Hollywood jet-set were usually accustomed to.

vallarta pantallaQuaint villas, perched high on the hillside behind the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, became the temporary homes for Burton, Gardner, Kerr and Taylor and their entourage of fabulous L.A friends. These villas can still be rented today and are steeped in glamorous history. The impact Vallarta had on some of the stars was so great that a few of them actually bought their villas and hence made an indelible impact on the area and laid the initial seeds for the ever increasing boom in tourism.

The notoriety gained from the production of ''The Night of the Iguana'', propelled Vallarta from a tiny fishing village into a world famous destination and an incredibly popular place to film movies. Between 73' and 77' four more high budget pictures were shot here, ''The Savage is loose'', ''Le Magnifique'', ''Swashbuckler'' (filmed in Punta Mita), and ''The Domino Principle''. This popularity and ''all-star'' casts spurned on the development of an International airport and luxury hotels, one of the first of note being the Camino Real.

vallarta pantallaWith the end of the stylish, sophisticated love stories of the 70's, the 80's ushered in a comic era for Puerto Vallarta, with classics such as Disney's ''Herbie Goes Bananas'' and ex Beatle Ringo Starr filmed ''Caveman'' here, using many of the locals as extras in the movie, dressed in furry outfits and long wigs. The 1987 blockbuster smash, ''Predator'' was filmed high up in the dense mountainous region above Mismaloya. This area can still be visited today, expect dense tropical rainforest casting long winding shadows over an awe inspiring waterfall, which cascades into a natural, crystal clear swimming hole, it really is a place to excite the senses.

Vallarta's popularity and notoriety, as a filmmaker's paradise, continued in the 90's when, at the time, hot commodity Kevin Costner co produced the classic ''Revenge'' with Ray Stark, who as it happens also produced ''Night of the Iguana''. Many more films have since been made here, more recently Tarantino ventured south of the border to film the cult movie ''Kill Bill'', and Harvey Keitel starred in the Chambers production ''Puerto Vallarta Squeeze''.

vallarta pantallaAs Puerto Vallarta has developed it is good to see that art and culture have developed alongside this booming tourist industry. The Municipal Film Commission of Puerto Vallarta has been created, and in 2003 the first Vallarta Film Festival was held, attracting many of the industries pioneers and current executives. One thing is for sure, as we fall in love with our idols on the silver screen and the movies they have made here, the makers in turn have fallen in love with the idyllic paradise, called Puerto Vallarta.