Directed by New Zealander filmmaker Vincent Ward and based on the eponymous novel by Richard Matheson, ‘What Dreams May Come’ is a fantastical and almost therapeutic exploration of the themes of death and loss. Fuelled by an ebullient performance from Robin Williams, the story follows a man in his journey to the afterlife. After his death, Charlie walks the stairway to Heaven but his wife takes her own life and finds herself in hell.
Charlie decides to commence a journey from heaven to hell to look for his wife in this modern retelling of ‘Divine Comedy.’ Ambient, atmospheric, and filled with lush visuals, the impressionistic journey of the film is one worth taking. If you seek to revisit the filming locations in person, let us guide you in the journey.
What Dreams May Come Filming Locations
‘What Dreams May Come’ was filmed predominantly in the US, in locations across California, Montana, and New York, with a short visit to Venezuela. Filming began on June 23, 1997, and was wrapped up by October 7 of the same year. Let us now give you a detailed tour of the specific locations visited by the production unit!
San Francisco, California
A major portion of the film was shot in and around the coastal Californian city of San Francisco. A few major sequences were filmed in Treasure Island, an artificial offshore island situated by the San Francisco Bay. Named after the book by Robert Louis Stevenson, the historical location is famous for being the site of the World’s Fair.
Some of the hell scenes were filmed in the abandoned aircraft hangers of the island. The car crash scene where Charlie dies was filmed at the Robert C. Levy Tunnel in San Francisco city.
Alameda County, California
Some important sequences were filmed in and around the Alameda County of California. The production team visited several locations around the county, including Oakland, Alameda, and Piedmont. The VFX photography was carried out by Manex Studios in the old aircraft hangers of Alameda Naval Air Station. Once an air station used by the US Navy, the location has been dysfunctional since 1997. The studio later acquired the air station and converted the space for filming purposes.
The funeral service of Charlie was filmed at a church in Oakland in the same county. 1st Baptist Church on Telegraph Avenue in the city of Oakland served as the church shown in the film.
Some scenes were filmed at Piedmont Funeral Services and Mountain View Cemetery, a burial ground located at 5000 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. We can spot Lake Merritt in a scene towards the ending. The scenic tidal lagoon is located in the middle of the city of Oakland.
The crew also visited the small township of Piedmont to film a few scenes. A dreamy sequence was filmed on Lincoln Avenue in the town. The art department decorated trees on both sides of the road for the purple blossom scene.
Marin County, California
The production unit also took a tour of Marin County to film some scenes. Filming was carried out in the neighborhoods of Ross and San Rafael. A few scenes were filmed at Phoenix Lake, a water body situated at Lagunitas Road in Ross.
In a scene, Charlie talks to his deceased son by a redwood tree. The scene was filmed at Muir Woods National Monument, a recreational nature park in Mill Valley north of San Francisco.
Moreover, some scenes were filmed at Saint Vincent’s School for Boys, a residential treatment home and church located in Marin County, 4 miles north of San Rafael.
Other Locations in California
In their extensive filming schedule, the crew visited a few other locations in the state. Some scenes were filmed in the backdrop of Filoli Historic House and Garden, a country house and adjacent estate located at 86 Cañada Road in Woodside about 25 miles south of San Francisco on the eastern part of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Additionally, some scenes were captured in the suburban city of San Jose in Santa Clara County.
The “Hell ship” sequences were filmed on the USS Oriskany, an iconic aircraft carrier vessel, which was stationed at the Mare Island peninsula in the city of Vallejo. Once a battleship, the vessel is now submerged into the water and converted into an artificial reef.
Niagara Falls, New York
A brilliant sequence in ‘What Dreams May Come’ was filmed at Niagara Falls, one of the most famous waterfalls in the world. Located in the northern region of the state of New York and bordering Canada, the cluster of waterfalls has previously been depicted in a hilarious scene in Jim Carrey’s ‘Bruce Almighty.’
Glacier National Park, Montana
The production team filmed on location amidst the idyllic natural beauty of Glacier National Park, a protected wilderness area in the Rocky Mountains in the northwestern part of the city of Montana. Some additional scenes were filmed at the bordering territory of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. The reserved area is recognized as home to the Blackfeet Nation, the tribe of Siksikaitsitapi or Niitsitapi people.
Estado Bolívar, Venezuela
Apparently, the locations in the US were not nearly enough. To level up the game and book the Oscar, the production team took a tour to Venezuela to catch a glimpse of the world’s tallest natural waterfall on land. Known as the Angel Falls, the site of global importance is located in the middle of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Canaima National Park in the state of Bolívar in Venezuela.
Read More: Best Fantasy Movies of All Time