Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 7, 2013

Where Was IRON MAN 3 Filmed? And Why?

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 4.05.37 AM


What do “The Hunger Games” and “Iron Man 3” have in common?

Not much, obviously – except for the fact each was principally filmed in North Carolina!

Any reason for that?

Not from a plot standpoint. There was no reason in the story line of either film that dictated inclusion of The Tarheel State.

The only reason appears to be money. Since 2011, North Carolina has been trying to lure filmmakers to the state, using wads of cash. More than $30 million to date, according to reports.

EUE/Screen Gems studios, Wilmington, NC

The Motion Picture Association of America confirms the Iron Man 3 production received $20 million in state tax incentives. (That was apparently a bigger payoff than was offered by Michigan, which was another finalist in the Iron Man 3 location sweepstakes.)

When some North Carolina lawmakers questioned the value of Iron Man filming to the state, the MPAA quickly released a study saying the state received nearly $180 million in direct spending from the production, and that more than 2,000 jobs were created. It would seem, however, now that production has wrapped, those Tarheel jobs were probably temporary ones, at best.

Is the MPAA sugar-coating the benefit a bit? Let’s run the figures: The total production budget for IM3 was an estimated $200 million. From the looks of the finished product, a lot of that money was spent out of the state: in Florida, China, California and a few other locations – not to mention the editing suite, where all those computer-generated scenes were concocted. (Chinese backers also apparently antied up to be included in the film.)


Tarheel tourists.

Even in some the key exterior scenes (i.e., not on a sound stage or set) that actually look like they might have been shot in North Carolina, the location is identified as Tennessee. How does that benefit generate interest among Iron Man fans to visit and invest their dollars in North Carolina? (Tourism – from all those moviegoers eager to revisit and personally experience all the deadly Hunger Games locations – was cited as the state’s principal benefit back when “The Hunger Games” was shot in N.C.)

What tourism interest might Iron Man 3 have generated? Perhaps a studio tour of the EUE/Screen Gems lot in Wilmington, where most of the North Carolina scenes were shot? How about a factory tour of Epic Games in Cary, where some of the electronic trickery was filmed? The Wilmington International Airport, of course, is open to the public.


Not Malibu.

There’s no need to visit the alleged location of Tony Stark’s mansion in Malibu, California. The mansion does not actually exist; it was computer-generated – and blown up on a set at Screen Gems.

Some shots were done over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Oak Island. Not a lot of tourism possibilities there either, although the Atlantic is free and open 24/7.


Villa Vizcaya on Miami’s Biscayne Bay

It would seem the more tourism-evoking scenes were shot in places like Beijing, China; the former Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood; and Miami Beach. Particularly compelling, I thought, was the swank Deering mansion, Villa Vizcaya on Biscayne Bay. It’s now a public museum with lovely renaissance gardens. Admission is $15 for adults, $6 for kids 6-12; $10 for seniors.

Ooops. I’m sure the North Carolina Film Office, now a part of the Department of Commerce’s Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development, would not appreciate that being your take-away from viewing Iron Man 3.

You are supposed to want to “Visit NC“.

Jerry Garrett

May 6, 2013


  1. I was wondering if you happen to know the name of the hotel used in the opening scene of Iron Man 3 (bern, switzerland, 1999)? Or, maybe it was just a set.

    • The film doesn’t officially list Bern as a filming location. Bern Tourism isn’t aware of filming being done there. So maybe it was just a set or Hollywood magic. If I were Tony Stark, and I were to visit Bern, I’d stay at the Bellevue Palace.

      • I stay quite often in the Bellevue Palace. The building that can see from outside is the Bellevue. The interior is different. Even the view is faked. You cannot see these mountains from a hotel in Bern.

      • You stay in the Bellevue Palace? What a glorious property that is. I love the hotel & its setting & the view of the mountains you mention. Highly recommended. I’ve written about the statue of the Spirit of Ecstasy in the bar!

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