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That Time We Drove Our Broncos Through a Clint Eastwood Movie Set in Doran Canyon, Calico

Dusty

I Started This Gangsta Shit
So Cal Broncos OG
You never know what you're going to stumble upon next when you're exploring out in the desert. Even in places you've been to many times, you can never be sure what you'll find around that next bend in the canyon or over that next rise. So it was on March 26, 2006, during what was becoming one of our regular trips to the Calico Mountains.

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As we were heading across the mud hills from our camp spot in Mule Canyon headed toward Doran Canyon, a few of us spied something odd on one of the canyon tops in the distance. What was that? It was dark and stood out in stark contrast against the muted hues of the Calico landscape and the sky. Looking closer it was...what? An anti-aircraft gun emplacement? Surrounded by sandbags? WTF is going on out here?

DSCN1164.jpg

So we kept going and eventually wound up in Doran Canyon, where we came around a bend and found an entire Japanese WWII army encampment was set up.

DSCN1160.jpgThere was smoke from the cookfires, military hardware, soldiers in various states of injury, tanks, everything. And of course camera crews.

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But this was our place :) So we just drove right on through the middle of their set. They all stopped what they were doing and watched us pass. We didn't know who they were or what movie they were filming at the time, but we later figured out it was for Clint Eastwoods' pair of WWII movies that were shot simultaneously: Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers.

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As we were passing through, the guy who seemed to be in charge said "here come the Broncos!" as he watched us pass. I later figured out through looking through my photos that this was director of photography Tom Stern, the guy in the blue shirt in the image below. Some have attributed that comment to Clint Eastwood himself, which would be a nice thought, as he was a Bronco owner also. But I don't recall actually seeing him at the time and thinking "hey, that's Clint Eastwood!" (and we didn't know it was his film being shot, at the time), nor can I specifically pick him out in any of my photos from that day. Some have said that might have been Clint in the black hat standing next to Tom Stern and holding the headphones in that photo, but I can't say (remember, he was 15 years younger then than he is today). So I can't say for sure whether he was even present on the set at that time. But I like to think he was there, somewhere, and watched as a dozen Early Broncos paraded through the middle of his movie set :)

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We continued on up through Doran Canyon and had fun exploring the Calico Mountains. On our return, we came back down the bypass which overlooks Doran Canyon below the gatekeeper, and paused for a while to watch the movie making going on below us sort of as our own drive-in theater.

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It took a few years for these movies to come out, and it was fun trying to pick this scene out when they did. Doran Canyon doesn't show up in Letters From Iwo Jima, but if you pay attention during Flags Of Our Fathers, there it is. Our own little piece of Iwo Jima right here in our Southern California desert.

This is just another great example of "you had to be there", and the things you might miss out on if you're not using your Bronco for what it's made to do: get you out into the back country and explore!
 
You never know what you're going to stumble upon next when you're exploring out in the desert. Even in places you've been to many times, you can never be sure what you'll find around that next bend in the canyon or over that next rise. So it was on March 26, 2006, during what was becoming one of our regular trips to the Calico Mountains.

View attachment 59

As we were heading across the mud hills from our camp spot in Mule Canyon headed toward Doran Canyon, a few of us spied something odd on one of the canyon tops in the distance. What was that? It was dark and stood out in stark contrast against the muted hues of the Calico landscape and the sky. Looking closer it was...what? An anti-aircraft gun emplacement? Surrounded by sandbags? WTF is going on out here?

View attachment 60

So we kept going and eventually wound up in Doran Canyon, where we came around a bend and found an entire Japanese WWII army encampment was set up.

View attachment 61There was smoke from the cookfires, military hardware, soldiers in various states of injury, tanks, everything. And of course camera crews.

View attachment 62

But this was our place :) So we just drove right on through the middle of their set. They all stopped what they were doing and watched us pass. We didn't know who they were or what movie they were filming at the time, but we later figured out it was for Clint Eastwoods' pair of WWII movies that were shot simultaneously: Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers.

View attachment 63

As we were passing through, the guy who seemed to be in charge said "here come the Broncos!" as he watched us pass. I later figured out through looking through my photos that this was director of photography Tom Stern, the guy in the blue shirt in the image below. Some have attributed that comment to Clint Eastwood himself, which would be a nice thought, as he was a Bronco owner also. But I don't recall actually seeing him at the time and thinking "hey, that's Clint Eastwood!" (and we didn't know it was his film being shot, at the time), nor can I specifically pick him out in any of my photos from that day. Some have said that might have been Clint in the black hat standing next to Tom Stern and holding the headphones in that photo, but I can't say (remember, he was 15 years younger then than he is today). So I can't say for sure whether he was even present on the set at that time. But I like to think he was there, somewhere, and watched as a dozen Early Broncos paraded through the middle of his movie set :)

View attachment 64

We continued on up through Doran Canyon and had fun exploring the Calico Mountains. On our return, we came back down the bypass which overlooks Doran Canyon below the gatekeeper, and paused for a while to watch the movie making going on below us sort of as our own drive-in theater.

View attachment 65

View attachment 66

View attachment 67

View attachment 68

It took a few years for these movies to come out, and it was fun trying to pick this scene out when they did. Doran Canyon doesn't show up in Letters From Iwo Jima, but if you pay attention during Flags Of Our Fathers, there it is. Our own little piece of Iwo Jima right here in our Southern California desert.

This is just another great example of "you had to be there", and the things you might miss out on if you're not using your Bronco for what it's made to do: get you out into the back country and explore!
Great story Dusty, the guy in the black hat does look like Clint.
 
Having worked on movie sets for over 35 years, it's cool that they just let you drive on through. Pretty lucky actually.
Good on the AD's for allowing that.
 
I don't think that they really had a choice. Yeah, they could have had an exclusive use agreement with the BLM and probably did, but there are so many ways into that area that it would've taken a literal army of security folks to keep everyone out.
 
I don't think that they really had a choice. Yeah, they could have had an exclusive use agreement with the BLM and probably did, but there are so many ways into that area that it would've taken a literal army of security folks to keep everyone out.
Yeah, well, just walk/drive into someone's shot sometime and watch them lose their sh*t! I worked for Fox in IT for a while, and some of the street set for NYPD Blue was pasted to the side of the building our office was in. It opened up to a "street" they shot in a lot since the "entrance" to the station was on that street. Anyway, when they were shooting they had a security guard stationed inside that door to make sure that you didn't use it. So, guess what happened? Yup, the guard picked the wrong time to do a bio break, and one of my co-workers walked out that door, and right into their shot. Like I said, several people absolutely lost their minds. Ah, and I never saw that security guard again...
 
Oh yeah, I don't doubt it. A B movie was shot in my neighborhood when I was in HS. They didn't have an exclusive use in place because people lived there, but a couple of times it got ugly when the people who actually lived there were just going about their lives and picked the wrong time to do it. I see both sides, but that person in charge of that one went about things entirely the wrong way.
 

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