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Monday February 6th 2023

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri | 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri film location: North Fork Left Fork Road near Black Mountain, North Carolina
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri film location: the site of the three billboards: North Fork Left Fork Road near Black Mountain, North Carolina | Image: Google Maps

First off, there's no 'Ebbing' – not in. Missouri, anyway.

And secondly, there's no Missouri – well, not in the film.

The story was inspired by billboards posted by a distraught father in Vidor, Texas, but the production was shot in North Carolina, hence the background of the Great Smoky Mountains.

The little town of 'Ebbing' is Sylva in Jackson County about 45 miles southwest of Asheville. It’s pretty much as it looks in the film.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri film location: Main Street, Sylva, North Carolina
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri film location: the police station in 'Ebbing': Main Street, Sylva, North Carolina | Image: Google Maps

'Ebbing Police Department' and the advertising agency office run by Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones) face each other across Sylva's West Main Street at Spring Street. The building used as the 'police station', at 581 West Main Street, seems currently to be standing vacant.

The ad agency where Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) rents the billboards, is The FarmHouse Mercantile and Coffee Bar, 582 West Main Street.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri film location: Main Street, Sylva, North Carolina
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri film location: the advertising agency office: The FarmHouse, Main Street, Sylva, North Carolina | Image: Google Maps

The story required the cop station and office stand directly opposite – just watch the amazing unbroken shot of Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) crossing the road and throwing Wilby out of the window. It’s a masterpiece of staging.

The billboards themselves, supposedly on 'Drinkwater Road', were erected for the film (no, they're not still there) about 55 miles east of Sylva.

In fact, they stood to the northeast of Asheville, on North Fork Left Fork Road (State Rd 2576) just west of the junction with North Fork Road, near the town of Black Mountain.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri film location: North Road near Black Mountain, North Carolina
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri film location: Mildred's home outside 'Ebbing': North Fork Road near Black Mountain, North Carolina | Image: Google Maps

Overlooking the spot, Mildred's house was 609 North Fork Road, a private home so, as ever, please do nothing to disturb residents.

The hugely unpopular ad campaign causes problems for Mildred's son Robbie (Lucas Hedges) at school. 'Chickasaw Falls high School' is Cullowhee Valley Elementary, 240 Wisdom Drive, in Cullowhee, a town just south of Sylva.

Mildred works in 'Southern Charms Gift Shop', where she's visited by a sinister stranger who may, or may not, have been involved in her daughter's murder.

This is a real gift store – Country Traditions, 73 Webster Street alongside the railroad line in Dillsboro, barely a couple of miles west of Sylva.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri film location: North Road near Black Mountain, North Carolina
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri film location: Mildred's home outside 'Ebbing': North Fork Road near Black Mountain, North Carolina | Image: Google Maps

You may remember that the spectacular train crash in 1993’s The Fugitive, with Harrison Ford, was filmed on the Great Smoky Mountains Railway in Dillsboro – and the destroyed train still remains just west of town. It stands on private property but it’s clearly visible from passing trains.

Unusually, considering that the locale is so drastically changed, writer and director Martin McDonagh plays fair by using the real names of other businesses.

For instance, the local bar in 'Ebbings', where the personal squabbles erupt at the pool table, and where Dixon finally hears a confession that promises to wind up the case, is the Town Pump Tavern, 135 Cherry Street, way over toward the billboard site in Downtown Black Mountain.

And, as unlikely as it may sound to some UK audiences, the restaurant in which Mildred has dinner with James (Peter Dinklage) after he provides her with a much-needed alibi, really is called J Arthur's.

In the UK, one of our leading cinema chains used to be owned by the very famous J Arthur Rank, whose surname rhymes with a British slang term for, um, self-pleasure. The phrase "Having a J Arthur", in rhyming slang, does not mean enjoying a steak dinner.

Oh, come on, if you’ve watched the film, you’ve heard far worse than that.

On first viewing, I honestly assumed the name to be McDonagh’s little joke, but sine the restaurant is owned by the fourth generation of the perfectly respectable Arthur family, the connection with Mr Rank seems highly unlikely.

This J Arthur's restaurant can be found at 2843 Coco Road (Route 19) in Maggie Valley, northeast of Sylva.

Finally, east of Maggie Valley, the hospital in which ex-cop Dixon and ad man Welby find themselves sharing a room after separate acts of reckless vengeance, is Haywood Regional Medical Center, 262 Leroy George Drive in Clyde.