‘Born on the Fourth of July’ is a biographical anti-war drama chronicling the life of Ron Kovic, a Vietnam war veteran, and his anti-war activism after returning back to the United States. Directed by Oliver Stone, the 1989 film is adapted from Ron Kovic’s autobiography of the same name and features Tom Cruise in the lead role, with the talents of Kyra Sedgwick, Raymond J. Barry, Jerry Levine, Frank Whaley, and Willem Dafoe in supporting roles.
Director Oliver Stone uses close-up shots throughout the film to great effect, putting each and every emotion on the character’s faces on stark display. Films based on real-life events usually struggle with historical accuracy, especially when they took place within living memory. The right filming location goes a long way in adding to the commitment of the producers of the film to those events and the people involved. With that being said, let us find out where ‘Born on the Fourth of July’ was filmed!
Born on the Fourth of July Filming Locations
Principal photography for ‘Born on the Fourth of July’ began on October 18, 1988, in Dallas, Texas, and went on till December 1988. The majority of the scenes were shot in Texas, specifically in Dallas, Venus, and Irving. A few sequences were captured in La Mesa, Mammoth Mountain, and Inglewood in California. The city of Waltham in Massachusetts is one of the filming sites as well. Moreover, the Philippines acts as a stand-in for Vietnam and Mexico in the film. Here are the details on the specific filming locations!
Ron Kovic’s childhood years were spent in Massapequa. In ‘Born on the Fourth of July’, Elmwood in Oak Cliff is presented as Massapequa. The initial scene in the film of the Fourth of July parade, and Henderson Elementary School, 2200 South Edgefield Avenue, Elmwood is used as Kovic’s high school. It is also where the prom scene featuring Tom Cruise and Kyra Sedgwick takes place. Interestingly, many of the students and faculty members of Kimball High School, Elmwood, made an appearance as extras during the parade and prom sequence.
1035 Drive on Creekside Drive is the Kovic family home. The anti-war protests depicted in the film, which Ron Kovic was a part of, were taped at Dedman College at the Southern Methodist University, located at 3128 Dyer Street. Milo Butterfingers, a tavern in Dallas, is the site of the fight between a drunk Kovic and another marine in ‘Born on the Fourth of July’.
The Dallas Convention Center was used to re-create the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami, Florida. The filmmakers also taped scenes at the Parkland Memorial Hospital as a stand-in for the Bronx Veterans Hospital in New York, where Ron Kovic and his fellow veterans are treated for their grievous injuries in combat.
The readymade sets at the Dallas Soundstage & Control Room – headquartered inside Mercury Studios at 6301 Riverside Drive, Irving – are also made use of to shoot some of the interior scenes in ‘Born on the Fourth of July.’ Other famous productions filmed at Mercury Studios include ‘RoboCop‘, ‘Problem Child’, and the television series ‘Prison Break‘. The now-defunct Las Colinas studios were also used for the same.
Other notable places which are used in ‘Born on the Fourth of July’ include the Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Boulevard, Inglewood in California, which served as the site for the Democratic Convention which Ron Kovic addresses at the end of the film. The streets of La Mesa are used to tape the second Fourth of July parade in the film. The train which Kovic takes to Syracuse, just before becoming embroiled in his first anti-war protest, is actually filmed at Waltham in Massachusetts.
Though Director Oliver Stone wanted to film Ron Kovic’s life as a Marine in Vietnam only to preserve the authenticity of his life’s story, he could not do so due to the unresolved tensions between Vietnam and the United States. The Philippines instead serves to provide the backdrop for the terrible gunshot wound which took away Ron Kovic’s ability to walk during the Vietnam war. Kovic’s retreat in Mexico – where he meets Charlie (Willem Dafoe), another paraplegic Vietnam veteran – is also captured in the Philippines.
Read More: Is Born on the Fourth of July a True Story?