Turkey, Lebanon and Fargo Branded By Hollywood Product Placement


Hawaii’s St. Regis Princeville Resort (The Descendants), Bruges, Belgium (In Bruges), Forks, Washington (Twilight) and New York’s Museum of natural History (Night at the Museum) would all attest to the power of location-based product placement. The marketing potential that appearing in a Hollywood picture can bring to a particular location. But that swings the other way.

Some in Lebanon are upset about how it was depicted in the Showtime terrorism-themed drama Homeland; so upset they’re pondering a lawsuit against the producers. Then, tourism officials a world away in Fargo, North Dakota are nervously anticipate the launch of a new series based on the cult favorite film Fargo, a movie many in the city have just started warming up to. But neither have a complaint as large as Turkey, maybe the most smeared location in Hollywood history.

Now, in 2012, Turkey is onscreen in two huge new films. One has already proven not to Turkey’s liking. Will the new James Bond film finally reverse 34 years of Hollywood history for Turnkey?[more]

The original Hangover film launched a number of Hangover-themed promotions in las Vegas. The film’s sequel, however, is probably not going to be used by Thailand’s tourism bureau anytime soon. But a negative onscreen depiction can be spun in a positive light. After the 2011 hit film The Help portrayed Jackson, Mississippi as a hotbed of racism, the city’s official tourism agency launched a municipal The Help tour.

Even though most of the action–and filming locations–in the 1996 film Fargo were set in Minnesota, the name of the film left the city holding the bag, so to speak.

Now, Fargo is embracing Fargo. As we noted last year, The Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Bureau obtained the actual woodchipping machine used to great visual impact at the end of the Coen Brothers’ iconic film.

And now the brothers have announced that the film will be used loosely for a new TV series of the same name. Details about the new Fargo series are not known, but Fargo tourism leaders are tentatively excited.

In a recent interview Charley Johnson, president of the Fargo Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Marketplace radio program, “When it came out, there were some mixed reactions.” But, Johnson said of the new show, “We’d love for them to shoot some it around Fargo.”

Fargo has a while to wait for its portrayal. But not Turkey.

The next big question in location product placement is whether or not the new film Skyfall will work some Bond tourism magic for its locations. The series has produced some major tourism success stories, maybe the apex of which is what has become known as “James Bond Island” in Thailand near the resort hotspot of Phuket. Featured in the iconic beach scene in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun, the small island is now regularly mobbed with swimsuited tourists. (For those unwilling to make the flight, there is always the Bond bus tour of London.)

As we noted earlier this year, Bond is one of a handful of major films this year that have highlighted Shanghai as a Bond set piece. Will China’s “Paris of the East” get a boost from Bond?

One Bond location is already complaining about the way it has been depicted in 2012.

Skyfall features Istanbul, Turkey as one of Bond’s action locations. (As did From Russia with Love.) But the Ottoman jewel is smarting from its depiction just a month ago in the action thriller Taken 2, a film whose star one could describe as Bond-like.

Many Turks have complained that Taken 2 depicts all women as veiled and that producers intentionally used old taxi models from the 1970s that made the city look less modern. Producers even more or less admitted to the second charge, with producer Diloy Gülün telling papers that “those vehicles better fit the atmosphere of the movie.”

Then again, maybe Skyfall will help Turkey to turn the corner in its relationship with Hollywood. Easily the most damaging portrayal of the nation ever–a film that made “in a Turkish prison” a grim punchline–was 1978’s Midnight Express, the true life story about the horror one young American experiences after his imprisonment in a Turkish prison for attempting to smuggle drugs. The film was shot in Malta after, unsurprisingly, it was refused permission to shoot in Turkey. With a screenplay for a young Oliver Stone, Midnight Express took liberties by ratcheted up the horror from the true experiences laid out in the earlier book, the most egregious of which was the brutal attempted rape scene at the end remembered by everyone who’s ever seen the film. In real life, that never happened. Many critics at the time — especially Turkish ones — noted how poorly the film portrayed the nation and its people.

Meanwhile, Oliver Stone won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.

The real man at the center of the Midnight Express film, Billy Hayes, apologized for his involvement in the smearing of Turkey. Hayes, who now ironically works in Hollywood’s film industry, said in 2004:

“I loved the movie, but I wish they’d shown some good Turks. You don’t see a single one in the movie, and there were a lot of them, even in the prison. It created this impression that all Turks are like the people in ‘Midnight Express.’ … I wish they’d shown some of the milk of human kindness I (also) witnessed.”

Hayes added: “The message of ‘Midnight Express’ isn’t ‘Don’t go to Turkey,’ It’s ‘Don’t be an idiot like I was, and try to smuggle drugs.'”

What will the message about Turkey be from Skyfall?

[Image: Midnight Express poster via]