One of Arnold Schwarzenegger's most likable movie characters was undoubtedly Det. John Kimble, the hero of 1990's 'Kindergarten Cop.' Directed by Ivan Reitman ('Ghostbusters,' 'My Super Ex-Girlfriend'), the action/crime/comedy showed a wackier, more self-deprecating side of the pre-Governator than audiences were used to -- and was a pretty entertaining caper in general.
The story: Kimble, along with partner Phoebe O'Hara (Pamela Reed), goes undercover in Astoria, OR, to find the ex-wife of a vicious drug dealer (Richard Tyson) in hopes of obtaining evidence to convict him. Ex-teacher O'Hara poses as a substitute at a local elementary school where the dealer's son is a pupil, though he and his mother have changed their names. When O'Hara falls ill, the hard-assed Kimble must fill in at the last minute. Despite a rocky start, he and the kids are soon bonding like crazy, due in no small part to his pet ferret, which becomes the class mascot. Kimble also becomes romantically involved with fellow school employee and mother of one of his students, Joyce (Penelope Ann Miller), who -- naturally -- turns out to be the dealer's ex-wife. It all builds to a fairly violent climax and happy resolution.
Most of 'Kindergarten Cop' was shot in Astoria itself, a scenic town on the Columbia River, a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. The picturesque city, sometimes called the "Little San Francisco of the Pacific Northwest" due to its steep hills and Victorian homes, has been a location for several movies, including 'Free Willy' and 'Free Willy 2,' 'The Goonies,' 'Short Circuit,' 'The Ring' and 'The Ring Two,' 'Into the Wild' and 'The Guardian.'
Location as character: Much of the movie's action -- and funniest scenes -- take place at "Astoria Elementary School," portrayed by John Jacob Astor Elementary School, located at 3550 Franklin. For the movie, the production team hired local artists to paint murals on the outside walls and provided new equipment for the playground behind the school. The playground -- where Kimble marches the kids around, military-style -- is still intact, as are the colorful wall murals. (Astor School was used for exteriors only; interior school scenes were shot at Universal Studios in Hollywood.)
Other Astoria locations used in the movie include the Bayview Motel, which was used as the investigation headquarters for Kimble and O'Hara (738 West Marine Drive); and the dockside Seafare Restaurant at the Red Lion Inn (400 Industry Street), where Kimble takes Joyce and son Dominic to dinner. Arrangements were made with boat owners who had moorage outside the restaurant to leave their boats tied up with the lights on, to make the view more romantic. The house used for Joyce and Dominic's residence is located nearby at 414 Exchange Street.
Historical significance: In 1810, four years after the Lewis & Clark expedition left the region, New York financier John Jacob Astor sent fur traders to establish a trading post. They built Fort Astoria on a site that is now marked by a monument in the city's downtown area. Astoria has served as a movie location as far back as 1908 ('The Fisherman's Bride'). Because of the city's longstanding connection to Hollywood, its county jail -- featured prominently in 'The Goonies' -- has been transformed into the Oregon Film Museum, which opened this past June.
Fun facts: The filming of 'Kindergarten Cop' was done during summer vacation, and many actual Astor School students, as well as teachers and neighbors, were used as extras. Much of the classroom art work seen in the film was done by Astor students.
Directions: Astoria is 73 miles (two-hour drive) from Portland International Airport. By car: Head southwest on NE Airport Way toward NE Air Cargo Rd; turn left to merge onto I-205 N toward Seattle (Entering Washington); merge onto I-5 N; take exit 36 for WA-432 W toward Longview/Long Beach/WA-4 W; merge onto WA-432 E; continue onto Tennant Way; turn left at Oregon Way; continue onto WA-433 S/Lewis and Clark Bridge (Entering Oregon); merge onto US-30 W via the ramp to Clatskanie/Astoria; turn left at 10th St; turn left at 34th St; take the second left onto Franklin Ave. Astor Elementary School is on the left.
Visitor info: The town is understandably proud of its recurring role in movies and the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce, located at 111 West Marine Drive (tel: 503-325-6311), sells a guide to various movie locations, including 'Kindergarten Cop.' We all know how easily distracted kids can be; the town requests that visitors to the Astor School please view the building from the sidewalks to minimize disturbance to both students and staff.