If you’re a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal or dark narratives, chances are you’ve heard of the 2001 cult classic “Donnie Darko.” This film, which features time travel, teenage rebellion, and inevitable death, made Long Beach one of its prime filming locations.
The film, which is based in Middlesex, Virginia, was filmed on Country Club Drive in Bixby Knolls due to its the suburban nature. Two houses, specifically, are on display in the film—one serves as the home of Donnie Darko (Gyllenhaal,) while the other is home to the film’s antagonist, Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze.)
The movie opens with a jet engine falling through the roof of the Darko household from an overpassing jetliner. Funny enough, this scenario is entirely possible for the house on Country Club Drive, as much of the street falls directly under a flight path in real life. Naturally, no such incident has occurred in the area, but the possibility is coincidentally always there.
Production continued to use the Los Cerritos Park area for filming—more specifically, the bus stop on the corner of Country Club and San Antonio drives. This stop can be seen when Darko’s romantic interest, Gretchen Ross (Jena Malone,) appears for the first time.
John Steven Agoglia, the film’s location manager who has since passed away, has filmed many other films in Long Beach. Being a longtime Los Angeles resident, it seems like no mistake that Agoglia would choose our sunny, sweet city to contrast the film’s dark and at times malevolent energy.
The crew’s time in Long Beach was also apparently rather short, similar to the production as a whole. Twenty-eight days were all that was necessary to film and that real-world interpretation helps to create a suspended sense of actuality to the film’s otherwise ludacris premise.
Whether you like “Donnie Darko” for its mysterious premise, it’s dark and edgy characters, or its challenging narrative, you can happily say with no mistake that the radiating beauty of Long Beach will always find a way to shine its way on a silver screen.