The Big Ugly: Exploring the Places Where the Movie Was Shot

With director Scott Wiper at the helm, ‘The Big Ugly’ is a film-noir crime thriller set in West Virginia. A London Mob boss and his right-hand man, Neelyn (Vinnie Jones), fly into the States to meet oilman Preston (Ron Perlman), finalizing a deal that will help them launder dirty money. Having a distinctive British accent, Neelyn becomes targeted by locals looking for a fight, one of them being Preston’s wayward son, Junior.

When Neelyn’s girlfriend disappears overnight, with Junior being the primary suspect, Neelyn sets out for revenge, setting aside his business obligations and the possible repercussions. The narrative of the 2020 film unfolds around the small towns, forests, hills, and creeks of Appalachia in the Mid West, overlaying the tone of a Western film. With such a distinctive backdrop, you may wonder whether ‘The Big Ugly’ was actually filmed in West Virginia.

The Big Ugly Filming Sites

Though West Virginia is the setting of ‘The Big Ugly,’ it is not where the shooting took place. The action thriller was actually filmed in Kentucky, particularly in Morehead, Owingsville, and Olive Hill, as opposed to West Virginia. Filming was carried out for six weeks in the summer of 2018, under the working title ‘London Calling.’ Let us take a closer look at the filming locations used for the production.

Morehead, Kentucky

A small town seated in Rowan County, Morehead is a remote location to be sure, located over a hundred miles southeast of Cincinnati, but offers a rustic landscape with plenty of Appalachian charm. Interestingly, director Scott Wiper and actor-producer Vinnie Jones scoured through Appalachia while scouting for locations and ultimately settled on Morehead. For the purpose of filming, local talents from the home rule-class city and surrounding towns were hired to fill out extra roles. Interestingly, Wiper wanted his home state, Ohio, to be the backdrop for the film, but due to a lack of tax incentives there, the production location had to be shifted to Kentucky.

Image Credit: 4G Vision/YouTube

Though Ohio couldn’t serve as the filming site, Kristen Schlotman, the Executive Director of Film Cincinnati, showered praises on the cast and crew members who are a native of the region. She said, “Although not filmed directly in Cincinnati, knowing the film would not have been possible without the talent and workforce cultivated right here in our region is a testament of our work we are incredibly proud of. We are thrilled that Karri (co-producer Karri O’Reilly) and her team were able to rely on the cast and crew from Greater Cincinnati to make their story come to life.”

Olive Hill, Kentucky

Olive Hill is a very small town northwest of Morehead. The weathered look of its structures was used to create the town visited by the British gangsters. The site can be seen when Harris walks into a desolate bar and talks to Kara, the bartender. Here, the production team ran into a unique challenge. Olive Hill is a part of Carter County, which used to be a dry county; therefore, the town had no bars. The one shown in the scene was created entirely by the production team using just a dilapidated building.

Image Credit: 4G Vision/YouTube

Creating the oil site where Junior’s shipping container office lies was a similar story. An abandoned quarry was used to create a set portraying the oil farm. This is where the final showdown between Neelyn and Junior takes place as well. Everything from building a road leading up to the site to setting up fences and the offices themselves was done by the team.

Image Credit: 4G Vision/YouTube

Owingsville, Kentucky

The home rule-class city of Owingsville is located west of Morehead in Bath County. The town is surrounded by open plains and wilderness, certainly fit for a Western-themed noir film to take place in. Interestingly, Wiper had initially envisioned the story for actor and producer Vinnie Jones, and both had created a script for it by 2014, with the story initially being set in Texas. Unable to find takers for the script, Wiper was struck with the idea of setting the film in Appalachia, an uncommon Western setting, but one where oil had been discovered as well. When it comes to filming, the region is certainly unique, having a rustic charm rarely tapped by filmmakers.

Image Credit: 4G Vision/YouTube

Read More: Best Western Movies of the 21st Century