Where was Outbreak filmed?
Ferndale, CA; island of Kauai, Hawaii
American, Victorian, Hospitals/Medical, Retail
Americana/Anywhere America, Federal Building, Gothic/Victorian, Helicopter
A deadly virus. A terrifying outbreak. A race against time to save humanity. Those few sentences sum up what you can expect from Outbreak, a 1995 film that experienced a resurgence in popularity in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world.
The plot of Outbreak gets underway in 1967 when an ultra-deadly virus known as Motaba is discovered in the African jungle. The virus is kept a secret by the US Army, with the military taking samples from infected patients with the aim of turning Motaba into a biological weapon.
Fast-forward 28 years and the frightening virus re-emerges in Zaire, so virologist Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) is dispatched to investigate the outbreak. What Daniels discovers alarms him — the virus is deadly, highly contagious, and as far as he’s concerned, likely to spread. But despite Daniels’ pleas to his superiors, and to his ex-wife Roberta “Robbie” Keough (Rene Russo) at the CDC, his concerns are largely ignored.
But when an infected Capuchin monkey is smuggled into the USA, the virus is quick to spread and is soon discovered in the small California town of Cedar Creek. And that’s when all hell breaks loose.
The town is quarantined and martial law put in place, but Daniels realizes there’s more to the outbreak than meets the eye. When he discovers that the Army already knew about Motaba, and uncovers the secret plan to bomb Cedar Creek off the face of the earth so the virus can be kept a secret, Daniels faces a race against time to save thousands of lives. But can he thwart the military’s evil plans and stop the spread of the virus at the same time?
After the past couple of years, most of us are all too familiar with what it’s like to live through a pandemic. And while the realities of lockdowns and social distancing were a little less dramatic than some of the scenarios outlined in the film, Outbreak is still an enjoyable watch for any pandemic-weary cinephile.
Even better, it’s easy to see where some of the best scenes in Outbreak were filmed. Keep reading for a breakdown of iconic Outbreak locations and plot points — including spoilers — and details of how you can visit those sites in person.
Some of the most chilling scenes in Outbreak are those of the virus’ re-emergence in Zaire. And as is often the case when Hollywood wants to capture shots of an exotic, far-away country, these scenes were filmed in Hawaii. Rather than Zaire, the jungle scenes were filmed on the island of Kauai, Hawaii’s fourth-largest island.
Other Outbreak locations are found a whole lot closer to home for California residents. The picturesque town of Cedar Creek is actually Ferndale, a pretty little town with a real Victorian flavor in Humboldt County, northern California. You can find it around 280 miles northwest of Sacramento.
Take a wander around Ferndale and you’ll find a couple of familiar locations from the movie, including Ferndale Repertory Theatre and the pet store where the virus first infects a Cedar Creek local. Both of these Outbreak locations are found on Main Street.
However, hospital scenes weren’t shot in the area, but instead, the production crew chose Linda Vista Hospital in LA and Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Dustin Hoffman in the role of Sam Daniels, but the part was originally meant for Harrison Ford.
The virus returns scene in Outbreak
When a mysterious virus outbreak occurs in Zaire, Sam Daniels is sent to investigate. As helicopters zoom past waterfalls and over dense jungle, it becomes clear that this is a remote and unspoiled part of the world. Landing in a humble village in the Motaba River Valley, Daniels, Casey Schuler (Kevin Spacey), and Major Salt (Cuba Gooding Jr) disembark in hazmat suits, apprehensive about what lies ahead.
They walk past the bodies of dead villagers and make their way to the village’s infirmary. Inside it’s like something out of a horror movie, with many men, women, and children either dead or dying. It’s too much for Salt to handle and he vomits inside his suit, then starts clawing at his helmet. Schuler wrestles with Salt, trying to calm him down, while Daniels watches on anxiously. “Keep his helmet on!” Daniels yells, but to no avail.
Salt rips his helmet off and starts breathing in the potentially contaminated air. “G*dd*mmit! Isolate him,” Daniels orders. They’ve only been in Zaire a few minutes, but already the mission is off to a disastrous start.
The Hawaiian island of Kauai was chosen as the setting for Zaire in Outbreak. With huge swathes of Kauai covered by tropical rainforest, it’s often known as the Garden Island.
The virus arrives in Cedar Creek scene in Outbreak
Kemp Building in Ferndale
Daniels is certain that the Motaba virus will spread, and he’s about to be proved right. When an infected capuchin monkey is smuggled into the USA, lab worker Jimbo (Patrick Dempsey) steals the monkey from an animal testing laboratory and plans to sell it. Of course, the monkey will go on to infect Jimbo with the virus, and also bring death to Cedar Creek.
Jimbo takes the monkey to Rudy’s Pet Shop in Cedar Creek, where Rudy has asked Jimbo to source him a male monkey. “You got the papers and everything?” Rudy asks. “Yeah, papers. That’s a good one,” Jimbo chuckles.
But the monkey he’s brought is a female, and it leaps out of its cage and scratches Rudy on the arm, drawing blood. The Motaba virus is now in Cedar Creek, and the consequences will be enormous.
The Outbreak filming location used as Rudy’s Pet Store is the Kemp Building in Ferndale. You can find it at 513-525 Main Street, right in the heart of town.
Jimbo dies scene in Outbreak
Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena
After setting the monkey free in the forest, Jimbo’s condition starts to deteriorate fast. Of course, he doesn’t know he’s carrying a deadly virus, so he boards a flight to Boston and soon infects his girlfriend, Alice (Kellie Overbey).
Before long, the couple wind up in hospital in isolation. Arriving at the scene, Robbie realizes it’s an emergency. As a critically ill Jimbo lies on his hospital bed, Robbie is desperate for answers. “Jimbo, we’re here to help you but we need to know how you got sick. Can you talk to me?”
Robbie asks whether Jimbo has been in contact with any animals, and though he tries to tell her something, he’s too sick to speak. And with that, Jimbo flatlines and the hospital staff go into panic mode. Alice, in the neighboring bed, is hysterical. “Oh God, he’s dead, isn’t he?” she screams, too upset to give Robbie the answers she needs.
The hospital scenes from Outbreak were shot at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, which is located at 625 Fair Oaks Avenue. However, as we mentioned above, the lobby of the Linda Vista Hospital in LA was also used in the film.
With an all-star cast and a plot that at times seems alarmingly plausible as a real-life scenario, Outbreak is a memorable watch. And although it was released more than 25 years ago, the film still holds up well to this day.
Happily, it’s easy to check out a host of iconic Outbreak locations around California. Even if you never want to hear the word ‘pandemic’ again, it’s still well worth visiting some of the sites where big names like Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, and Donald Sutherland once strutted their stuff. So if you get the chance, check out these memorable film settings from Outbreak today.