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Wednesday July 18th 2018

About Schmidt | 2002

Alexander Payne stays fiercely loyal to his home state, filming almost the entire movie in Nebraska – including the concluding section set in ‘Denver, Colorado’.

Jack Nicholson is uncharacteristically subdued as office drone Warren Schmidt, pushed into reappraising his life at the age of 66.

About Schmidt film location: Woodmen of the World, Farnam Street, Omaha, Nebraska
About Schmidt location: Warren Schmidt’s workplace: Woodmen of the World, Farnam Street, Omaha, Nebraska | Photograph: wikimedia / Margotmargot

Change is triggered by retirement from his insurance job at Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Co, 1700 Farnam Street, in Omaha, where most of the movie is filmed. Woodmen is a real tower and a real company – the office used as Schmidt's office is that of the company’s vice president and chief actuary.

With blank-eyed resignation, Warren endures a deadly retirement dinner, held at Johnny’s Cafe, 4702 South 27th Street, South Omaha alongside the Kennedy Freeway. A steak house since 1922, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a better time – and there’s always the bar for that much-needed vodka gimlet.

About Schmidt film location: Poppleton Avenue, Omaha, Nebraska
About Schmidt location: the home of Roberta in ‘Denver’: Poppleton Avenue, Omaha, Nebraska | Photograph: Google Maps

Warren returns home to a staid chintzy life with wife Helen (June Squibb), crushed to discover that he’s not as indispensable to the company as he assumed himself to be. Warren’s home, supposedly on ‘Farnam Street’ (recognise that as the street the Woodmen office is on?), is 5402 Izard Street, near Memorial Park, north of downtown.

Helen has splashed out on a huge Winnebago Adventurer, with plans for a “new chapter in life” to begin, but the exciting high-point of Warren’s post-work existence comes when he stops off for ice cream, with Reece’s Pieces and cookie dough, at Dairy Queen, South 136th Street, Millard, a few miles west of the city. That must be some good ice cream.

He’s out posting a letter to a six-year-old Tanzanian boy called Ndugu he’s impulsively ‘adopted’ in response to a Childreach television appeal (voiced by Angela Lansbury, if you were wondering).

Returning home to find Helen lying dead on the floor, the new chapter turns out not to be the one he was expecting.

Thrifty as ever, Warren buys the second-cheapest coffin at John A Gentleman Mortuary, 1010 North 72nd Street, Omaha – a fact that doesn’t go unnoticed by his daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) at Helen’s funeral, which is held in Bohemian Cemetery, 5201 Center Street.

There’s clearly friction between Warren and Jeannie, who’s flown in from Denver, Colorado, with husband-to-be Randall (Dermot Mulroney), but after Warren drops the couple off at the airport to return home, he has to start coming to terms with life alone. The airport, where his car infuriatingly stalls in the car park, is Eppley Airfield, 4501 Abbott Drive.

Blithely assuring Ndugu how well he’s coping in one of his therapeutic if inappropriately detailed letters, it’s obviously that his ordered life is starting to fray as Warren stocks up with mountains of frozen food at Baker’s Supermarket, 5222 South 136th Street at Q Street and, in a deleted scene on DVD, also shoplifts Preparation H.

The final break with his old existence comes when Warren stumbles across a stash of old love letters to Helen from his best friend Ray (Len Cariou). He dumps his wife’s possessions by the recycle bins in the alley off 50th Street, between Underwood Avenue and California Street, before confronting Ray outside Southwest Plaza Barber Shop, 4601 South 50th Street.

Now freed from constraints, Warren takes to the road in the Adventurer to visit his daughter but, after a less than enthusiastic response to his phone call, he decides instead to undertake a sentimental journey through his old haunts.

There’s disappointment when he finds that his childhood home on ‘Locust Street, Holdrege’ has been replaced by a tyre store. This is a brief jaunt across the Missouri River from eastern Omaha into Iowa, to Tires Plus, 2103 West Broadway in Council Bluffs.

It’s straight back to Nebraska, though, for Warren’s alma mater, the ‘University of Kansas’ in ‘Lawrence’. The campus is actually the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (which had previously been seen in another Jack Nicholson film, Terms Of Endearment). His old ‘Beta Sigma Epsilon’ fraternity house is the Delta Delta Delta House, 1601 R Street, Lincoln.

From here, Warren passes quickly though Nebraska City, where the cinema, optimistically previewing Payne’s next film, Sideways, is the Pioneer 3 Theatre, 110 South 11th Street, Nebraska City.

About Schmidt film location: Memorial Hall, 1st Corso, Nebraska City, Nebraska
About Schmidt location: Schmidt admires the arrow heads in the museum: Memorial Hall, 1st Corso, Nebraska City, Nebraska

Warren indulges in a little nostalgia for the Old West, first being awed by the fine collection of arrowheads at Custer County Historical Museum, 445 South 9th Avenue, in Broken Bow, about 150 miles west of Omaha.

If you want to visit the museum, you’ll find it doesn’t look much like the old red-brick building  in the film, which uses the much more photographic exterior of the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall, 910 1st Corso, back in Nebraska City.

About Schmidt film location: Scout's Rest Ranch, Scouts Rest Ranch Road, North Platte, Nebraska
About Schmidt location: Schmidt calls in to visit Buffalo Bill’s home: Buffalo Bill’s Scout’s Rest Ranch, Scouts Rest Ranch Road, North Platte, Nebraska

He next stops off to view ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody’s home, Buffalo Bill's Scout's Rest Ranch, 2921 Scouts Rest Ranch Road, North Platte. You can visit it too, if you wish. The 25-acre ranch is a state historical park and the restored house contains memorabilia of the old showman.

New to the freewheeling life, Warren clumsily misreads the signals and makes unwanted moves on a neighbour’s wife in the Louisville SRA, 18510 Nebraska 50, Louisville, on the south bank of the Platte River.

There’s a brief glimpse of Denver, as the Winnebago is driven past the Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue and south into Ogden Street, but the home of Randall’s controlling hippie mother Roberta (Kathy Bates) is 3215 Poppleton Avenue, in Southeast Omaha.

Also in Colorado is the angular space age exterior of the church where the wedding rehearsal is held, which is the First Christian Church, 950 28th Street, Boulder, but the church interior is Messiah Lutheran Church, 5015 South 80th Street, at Lakeview Street, South Central Omaha.

Warren is zonked out throughout the rehearsal on Roberta’s hysterectomy pills, and is still out of it throughout the speechifying at the pre-nuptial dinner in Tony Roma's, 2510 South 132nd Street, West Omaha.

The wedding ceremony is a bit hand-made and unorthodox, but the reception where Warren gets to make his quietly passive-aggressive father-of-the-bride speech, held at DC Centre Banquet Facility, 7117 Jones Circle, Elmwood Park, is as excruciatingly traditional as you’d expect.

About Schmidt film location: Great Platte River Road Archway, Kearney, Nebraska
About Schmidt location: Schmidt stops off on the way home: Great Platte River Road Archway, Kearney, Nebraska

Returning home, empty and defeated, Warren stops off at the Great Platte River Road Archway, 3060 East 1st Street, just south of Kearney, on I-80 about 100 miles west of Lincoln. Unmissably spanning 310 feet across the interstate, the display presents 170 years of American history through film, computer graphics, life-size dioramas, re-enactors and more – and will take you around an hour to experience.