Movies filmed at the Biltmore Mansion

A Day Away by Mike Steely

Who among us doesn’t know about the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina? I mean we’ve either been there, wanted to go there, or know someone who has. It’s sort of like Dollywood as far as being in the back of our traveling minds, right?

Almost everyone knows a little bit about the mansion, advertised as America’s largest castle and built by the hugely wealthy Vanderbilt family. The estate is full of beautiful gardens with lodgings, restaurants and a winery and is open to the public for an admittance fee.

Built in 1895 and sitting on more than 8,000 acres, the home remains in the hands of the Biltmore heirs. A visit there gives the average person an envious or bitter look at how the upper-crust lived and continues to live. Most of us only dream of such riches and the closest we could ever come would have been being a house servant or a modern-day tour guide.

Do you have any idea how many times you’ve seen the Biltmore on television or in the movies? I don’t mean in their television commercials, I mean as a part of the story.

In the movies the Biltmore Estate was featured, rightfully so, as the home of “Richie Rich,” the comic book turned movie. It also played a part in the movie “Patch Adams,” Forest Gump,” and even “Hannibal.”

Yet the part that the Biltmore Estate played in the Peter Sellers movie “Being There” was my favorite. Like “Forest Gump” and “Rain Man,” the “Being There” plot was both social and political satire. Chancy Gardner, the gardener to a rich family, inherits their fortune and becomes a celebrated person, much like Paris Hilton, famous for being famous.

Chancy is a dim bulb and the public and public officials take to him and think he’s brilliant. Literally.

Shirley McClain and many others costar in the funny and touching movie and the story ends at the small lake behind the Biltmore, where Chancy tests the waters with his umbrella and then strolls across the surface of the lake. It’s a great scene and the photo of the scene was referenced in posters and on the cover of the VHS and DVD sleeves of the movie.

You can get to the lake by taking the road around the mansion and toward the winery. Don’t try walking across the water.

If you’re into movie trivia you could also take the drive south of Asheville to Lake Lure and see some of the places “Dirty Dancing” was filmed. Nearby Chimney Rock Part was the location for parts of “The Last of the Mohicans” and Stephen King’s “Firestarter.”

Asheville  is totally different from other North Carolina cities. Like Knoxville, it is a progressive spot that stands alone for its culture, attractions and businesses. While visiting the Biltmore you may also take in downtown Asheville, the Botanical Gardens, the River Arts District and The Gray Line Trolley.

You can find the Biltmore and Asheville on the internet or call the Asheville Visitors Center at (828) 257-4959.