“Rudy”: Filmed in Whiting 25 Years Ago
Whiting can’t quite claim it’s the “Hollywood of the Calumet Region,” but in the 1980s there were two motion pictures partially filmed in Whiting. And in 1993, Whiting was one of the locations where they filmed “Rudy,” considered by many to be among the top sports movies of all time. October is the 25th anniversary of the film’s release. In honor of that anniversary, there are special showings of “Rudy” at theaters across the country. If you go, here’s what to look for if you want to spot Whiting’s appearance in the film.
“Rudy” is based on the life of Rudy Ruettiger, a young man who was told he was too small to play college football. But he overcame the odds and obstacles and fulfilled a dream of playing for Notre Dame. The real-life Rudy was born and raised in Joliet. Whiting was used as a film location because it had “the look and feel” of Joliet in the 1950s, the years when Ruettiger grew up there. Don’t watch the movie thinking you’ll hear Whiting mentioned. Whiting was just a stand-in for Joliet.
Filming in Whiting took place in December of 1992. Sunbeam Productions, which handled the logistics of the production, planned to bring in snow making machines because the scenes here needed to look like Christmas time. Nature, however, provided its own snow and gave the production team what it needed.
The filming was done at the eastern end of 119th Street, between Front Street and Schrage Avenue, as well as in the area of Standard Avenue. Many of the Whiting landmarks which appeared in the film are now gone, including the railroad tracks that ran to the south of Standard Avenue. It is now a parking area just to the east of Oil City Stadium. In the film, that’s the area where the boys are playing football during Rudy’s life in Joliet.
Two other Whiting locations in the film are also gone. Game Time bar, which was located on 119th Street at Standard Avenue in 1992, was used as a bar which was frequented by Rudy’s family and coworkers. A house at 1718 119th Street was used as the Ruettiger family home.
“Rudy” was written by Angelo Pizzo, who wrote “Hoosiers,” the classic Indiana basketball movie. Whiting had a bigger role in the film “Four Friends,” which was written by Steve Tesich. Tesich, who grew up in East Chicago, also wrote “Breaking Away,” the classic Indiana-based bike racing movie. “Four Friends” was released in 1981. Six years later, in 1987, “Light of Day” was partially shot in Whiting, bringing star Michael J. Fox to the city. But “Rudy” was easily the biggest box office hit of all the movies filmed in Whiting, and it’s sure to bring in more during its 25th anniversary showing.