When you visit Chicago, it's hard not to think of your favorite Chicago film moment. Everybody has one, whether they realize it or not. Is it the Blues Brothers running into the Daley Center with 2,000 police officers on their tail? Is it Ferris Bueller jumping on the parade float ad rolling down Michigan Avenue singing "Danke Schoen?" Maybe it's Sean Connery and Kevin Costner facing off against Robert De Niro in "The Untouchables." Chicago has been the backdrop for a good many iconic movies, and it's birthplace of hundreds of well-known actors and actresses. In many ways, it's kind of a Midwestern version of the iconic film city, like a "Hollywood by the Lake."
Back in the early days of cinema, before people realized that the weather in California was pretty nice, Chicago was actually a film hub of sort. From a 1915 Charlie Chaplin Film, His New Job, to Hitchcock's North by Northwest in 1959, Chicago had more than its fair share of films in the first half of the 20th century. After a few quiet years, the city experienced a resurgence in film in the 1980's, due in part to the allegiance of Chicagoan John Hughes, who made Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller's Day Off in the city. Of course, even bigger than these films was the Blues Brothers, the 1980 film that perhaps captured the spirit of the city more than any other. One also can't forget the film that launched Tom Cruise's career, Risky Business, set in Chicago in 1983. Throw in Steve McQueen's last film, The Hunter, and Brian DePalma's epic The Untouchables, and the 80's shape up to be a pretty good decade for Chicago film.
Modern film tends to be a bit grittier than the movies of yesteryear, and so it is with Chicago Film. Dark films like Candyman, Mercury Rising, Road to Perdition, Public Enemies and The Dark Knight dominate the last two decades of Chicago film. That isn't to say there's no room for a pulse-pounding thriller like The Fugitive, a romantic comedy like My Best Friend’s Wedding or a gut-busting comedy like Home Alone, though.
Of course, a film doesn't have to be made in Chicago, or even set in Chicago to have a Chicago feel to it. There are plenty of Chicago-born actors and actresses who bring the best of the Windy City with them in every performance. When most people think of Chicago actors, they might think of the obvious "Chicago guys" like John Belushi, Joe Mantegna or Dennis Farina, but Chicago talent goes deeper than that. If you want to talk about "Chicago tough", how about tough guys like Michael Madsen, Tom Berenger and Mr. T? The latter was working security at a hospital when he was discovered--it doesn't get any more "Chicago" than that. There are quite a few great Chicago actors scattered throughout the history of film, including Jason Robards, Robert Conrad, Ralph Bellamy, Michael Clarke Duncan and even Harrison Ford.
Chicago has more than its fair share of successful actresses, too. From Kim Novak to GIllian Anderson, Chicago actresses have always been known for a combination of beauty and character. With a list of names that includes Jenny McCarthy, Cindy Crawford, Marilu Henner, Daryl Hannah and Jennifer Beals, there's a pretty good chance that many of your favorite movies have a Chicago actress in them.
The next time you're walking around Chicago, see if you can recognize scenery and landmarks from some of your favorite films. Who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of your favorite actor or actress. Better yet, you might find yourself in the background of a movie being shot right now! That's just one of the perks of spending time in Hollywood by the Lake.