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Posted at 2:22 PM ET, 10/20/2006

Getting on the (Movie) Bus

By Jen Chaney

For a few hours yesterday, I was a D.C. tourist.

More specifically, I was a passenger on the maiden voyage of the new D.C. movie and TV tour, a three-hour bus ride past the sites where "No Way Out," "The West Wing," "The Exorcist," "Wedding Crashers" and other favorites were filmed. It amazes me that it's taken this long for someone -- in this case, On Location Tours from New York -- to start something like this in our oh-so-cinematic city. But I'm glad they finally did.

Tours will be given at 2 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They begin at Union Station, wind by the Capitol and the National Mall, head through Georgetown and, eventually, end up at the Willard Hotel. The first public tour is scheduled for Nov. 4.

Before you plunk down $32 for a ticket, there are a few things you may want to know. Based on yesterday's tour for members of the media and other invited guests, which was a two-hour, truncated version of the real thing, keep in mind the following:

Wear Walking Shoes: I learned this the hard way while teettering along the brick-lined sidewalks of Georgetown in a pair of patent leather heels. While you and your entourage will travel primarily via large, cushy bus, some walking is involved. The tour stops at the Lincoln Memorial, the Shops at Georgetown Park and farther north in Georgetown near Wisconsin Ave. At the walking stops, participants get maps of all the nearby sites to visit on their own until it's time to reboard. The stroll in Georgetown yesterday -- from Wisconsin Ave. all the way over to "The Exorcist" steps off of Prospect St. -- was a long one, so wear some sneaks.

Be Prepared to Participate: The brochure for the tour says: "Warning: Come ready to sing TV theme songs!" Aside from our tour guide, who briefly crooned a modified version of the "Gilligan's Island" theme, no one did any singing on our bus. But prior to take-off, the music from shows like "Mad About You" and "The Flintstones" blared over the P.A. system to get us in a festive mood. (They eventually turned it off after a polite request by Channel 4's Arch Campbell.) You may also want to brush up on your movie and TV trivia. Our guide, Karen Novack, threw several questions at the group as we toured the town. A sample: Which actor has appeared in the most D.C. movies -- Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones? Answer: Gene Hackman. Feel free to stick that piece of knowledge in your back pocket in case you need it.

Accept the Fact That You May Know More About Movies Than Your Tour Guide: Most casual movie fans will find the sites, the film clips shown on the bus and the wealth of tidbits shared during the tour more than satisfying. But if you're a hardcore cinema buff, it's very possible your knowledge will exceed that of your guide's. Although Novack -- a D.C. area stage actress who will be one of three D.C. guides -- has extensive notes about all the films she mentions, she admitted she hasn't seen most of them. But she plans to Netflix as many as she can before Nov. 4. Having said that, she certainly made a peppy and friendly hostess, and that may be more than enough for most paying tour-takers.

Be Patient While They Work Out the Kinks: It's not easy to give such a lengthy tour, so it may take some time for the On Location guides to get into the cinematic swing of things. Yesterday, for example, the clips on the DVD player didn't always sync up to the sites we were seeing. And at Holy Trinity Parish in Georgetown, a locale from "The Exorcist" and "The Exorcist III," we gathered expectantly behind the pews, ready to hear about the place, only to file right back out. (We later learned that the woman who had agreed to show us around was not there at the time.) Presumably the guides will get more comfortable with admitting to technical difficulties and improvising to fill any downtime.

Of course, the best part of the tour is the voyeuristic glee that comes from seeing the house that doubled as Annette Bening's in "An American President," or the church where Vince Vaughn married Isla Fisher in "Wedding Crashers." D.C. is hardly Hollywood. But this tour makes it clear that our city has its share of star power.

-- Jen

By Jen Chaney  | October 20, 2006; 2:22 PM ET
Categories:  Movies  
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Gene Hackman's daughter lived in DC for several years- I think U of MD grad maybe, and every time I met him he was filming a movie here and the two of them were out. Every time I'd see him, I'd remind him of how popular "The Conversation" was amongst my classmates.

Posted by: Bethesdan | October 23, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse

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