“Three Billboards” gives N.C. something to root for at the Oscars

KINSTON — Any North Carolinian knows of the state’s natural beauty from the coastal regions to the mountain peaks. The state is home to tree-lined highway drives, small towns with charm, and lush lakes amid the mountains making the state a favorite location for filmmakers.

Western N.C. has served as the backdrop for several of the film industry’s cult classics including “Dirty Dancing,” “Hunger Games,” “The Fugitive” and “Forrest Gump.”

The film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” transformed Sylva, N.C., into Ebbing, Mo., and received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Frances McDormand, and Best Supporting Actor for both Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson.

The critically acclaimed film showcases a mother’s quest to call attention to her daughter’s murder through the purchasing of three billboards outside of the city, as the film’s name suggests. The mother, portrayed by McDormand, implores the community to uncover the secrets of her daughter’s violent death.

While Ebbing is a fictional town, sites in Sylva, Dillsboro, Black Mountain and Maggie Valley were used to create the backdrops. Visitors can visit the Jackson County Historic Courthouse, which now serves as the public library. Climb the 107 steps for a picturesque view of the town.

Stop by Sassy Frass, a home décor store that was transformed into the Ebbing Police Department. Travel down North Fork Lift Road, which circles Black Mountain, to see the route featured in the film as housing the infamous billboards.

North Carolina is connected with 10 other Oscar-nominated films, including 1985’s “The Color Purple” which was filmed in Anson, Mecklenburg, Rowan and Union counties. Baseball enthusiasts remember 1988’s “Bull Durham,” which was filmed in Burlington, Greensboro, Raleigh, Wilson and Durham.

If you travel to the coastal regions of North Carolina, including Wilmington, Southport and the Outer Banks, you’ll find these cities have served as locations for the film adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novels. Though Sparks’ books-turned-films such as “The Lucky One,” “The Notebook” and “Nights in Rodanthe” haven’t won awards, they’ve been extremely popular love stories among filmgoers.

The other films and actors competing with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” for Academy Awards were announced on Tuesday.