The Judge: Is Carlinville a Real Town in Indiana?

Starring Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr., ‘The Judge’ focuses on the relationship of a father and a son, who have grown distant over the years. Downey plays Hank Palmer, a successful criminal defense lawyer in Chicago, who returns home after twenty years to attend his mother’s funeral. What he thinks would be a small trip extends unexpectedly when his father is arrested in a hit-and-run case. As Hank defends his father, old grudges are dug up and new revelations change the course of their relationship, leading Hank to see his hometown, Carlinville, in a completely different light.

Carlinville in The Judge is Fictional

The events of ‘The Judge’ take place in a fictional small town. There is a real city called Carlinville, but it is in Illinois and has no connection with the movie or its setting. According to the director of the film, the Carlinville in the movie is supposed to be located somewhere near the Hoosier National Forest in Southern Indiana, but that’s just to give the audience a sense of the surroundings and the community in which the Palmer family lives.

The film was shot in Massachusetts, particularly in Shelburne Falls and Buckland. The quaint town of Shelburne Falls served as the primary backdrop for the fictional Carlinville. The hilly terrain also helped create the Southern Indiana look that the filmmakers were going for.

When director David Dobkin started writing the story, he set it in Indiana because he wanted the film to have the small-town charm. He hails from a small town in Maryland, and his experience of living in such a town and the memories of his childhood informed a lot of what went into the film. The memory of that town lingered in his head even after it expanded and turned into something else right in front of him. That sadness was one of the factors why the story came to him with a small Indiana town as its background.

The small-town factor was also important for the story’s thematic structure, which focused on small-town values and the character’s desire to leave home while wishing to find acceptance there. It was important for Hank Palmer’s journey to showcase his return to his hometown, which he grew to hate over the years but also feels incredibly attached to due to how much it is ingrained in him.

While Dobkin was clear about Indiana being the setting for the story, he couldn’t actually shoot the movie in the state. Instead, the cast and crew had to go to Massachusetts for the entire filming process. The reason behind this was the lack of tax incentives in Indiana, as opposed to the ones provided by the state of Massachusetts, which provided a 25 percent production credit, 25 percent payroll credit, and a sales-tax exemption at the time. It was more viable, especially in terms of finance, to turn the town of Shelburne Falls into something that would look like an Indiana town.

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