Robert Redford and Nick Nolte’s characters in “A Walk in the Woods” do a lot of hiking and some fine eating. Atlanta diners will feel right at home whenever the pals break bread in the movie, in theaters now.
The two play Bill Bryson and Stephen Katz, longtime buddies who tackle physical and emotional challenges during their time on the Appalachian Trail.
In between battling a sudden snowstorm, fending off a pesky fellow hiker and even peskier bears, the guys dig in at the Maple Restaurant at Amicalola Falls Lodge in Dawsonville (don’t miss the pancakes), Louise’s Restaurant near Kennesaw Mountain in Marietta (try the meat and three, or four, or five) and the Colonnade Restaurant (located on Cheshire Bridge Road, not in the mountains as the skillful editing portrays).
The movie, based on Bryson’s book, follows the guys in their attempt at hiking the entire trail, but was filmed mostly in metro Atlanta and elsewhere in Georgia.
“Our film is not a big studio film,” director Ken Kwapis said. “The major studios don’t make movies like this anymore, but the good news is indie films and indie producers have filled the gap.”
Redford, a founder of the Sundance Film Festival, also served as a producer on “A Walk in the Woods” and was the driving force behind bringing it from bookshelf to big screen. Years ago, he envisioned Paul Newman in the role of Stephen Katz.
“It’ll be fun,” Redford told Cinematical.com in January 2008. “I don’t know when I’ve read a book that I laughed so loud.”
Newman died in 2008 and the idea was put on hold. Then Redford and Nolte crossed paths on the 2012 movie “The Company You Keep.”
“They got along splendidly,” Kwapis said. “They really had wonderful chemistry.”
Although many of the scenes with the grouchy Katz and erudite Bryson feel improvised, the actors stuck to the script. The bears who make a memorable cameo just did what came naturally.
When you see the movie, try to guess where the crew members hid bits of salmon to attract their attention. Here’s the trailer:
Other four-footed stars played key off-screen roles.
“Invariably, the most compelling locations were the least accessible, and we always had some difficulty getting to the spots,” Kwapis said. “When we were shooting at Pine Mountain, we actually enlisted camels to carry our film equipment.”
The movie also features Mary Steenburgen, Nick Offerman and Emma Thompson (none of whom interacted with either bears or camels). After the project wrapped, Redford sent a fond farewell to Atlanta.
“I want to give a salute of thanks to the city and its people,” he said in a statement issued through a representative. “My stay here has brought me face-to-face with the expression ‘Southern Hospitality.’ It is true. And appreciated. The preface of ‘Sir’ when addressing others, the laid-back warmth and desire to have a good day stands in stark contrast to cities. Even the cars here are polite. Thank you and please stay the course.”
Kwapis was duly impressed as well.
“This was my first time working in Atlanta,” he said. “It felt like there were at least a dozen other things happening. I was really knocked out by how busy the town was. I was really impressed at the talent pool. I look forward to getting to come back.”