Where was Stir Crazy filmed?
American/ Desert/ Prison
Anywhere America/ Industrial
About Stir Crazy
Reuniting comedy legends Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor yet again, the 1980 film Stir Crazy lives up to its name. Directed by the Oscar-winning actor, Sidney Poitier, the film tracks the misfortunes and mix-ups of two friends Harry (Pryor) and Skip (Wilder).
After being fired from their respective jobs back in New York, Harry, an aspiring actor, and Skip, a wannabe playwright, decide to cut their losses and head to Hollywood. Along the way, they decide to stop off and take odd jobs to make money, leading them to perform a song and dance routine at a bank in Arizona.
Unfortunately, the bank gets robbed at the same time, with the real robbers stealing Harry and Skip’s costumes, thereby framing them for the robbery! The pair end up getting convicted for 125 years and get sent to a Maximum Security prison out in the desert.
Faking insanity from the get-go, the pair try various schemes to try and win their freedom. After three months of acting crazy not seeming to work, the pair are called in to help “test” a mechanical bull, not knowing that it was an audition for the real thing.
Upon discovering Skip’s unique talent, the Warden (Barry Corbin)announces he’ll be the prison’s champion in an upcoming rodeo competition against a rival prison, with a bundle of cash on the line. Neither of the pair wants to have anything to do with it, but the Warden makes it clear that neither of them has a say in the matter.
Knowing that the prisoners won’t see any of the cash, and the Warden is likely to kill Skip after the rodeo, the pair spot another opportunity to escape. With the help of their fellow inmates, a collection of characters in of themselves, the pair hatch a plan that enables all four of them to walk free. Will it work? Well, you’ll have to watch Stir Crazy to find out!
As one of the six excellent comedic films that brought Wilder and Pryor together, the most famous of which probably being Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, Stir Crazy is a riot that’ll keep you guessing and never goes in the direction that you think it will do. If you haven’t seen this classic 1980s comedy, carve out some time in your day to sit back and enjoy the, quite frankly, crazy ride.
Stir Crazy Locations
Despite having filmed in four separate states, the Stir Crazy production team shot the entire film in just 56 days. That turnaround is crazy!
With scenes in Manhattan, Burbank, St George in Utah and the majority of the film being shot in and around Florence, Arizona, the schedule must have been tight, but Poitier and his team seemingly nailed it.
Although a lot of the interior shots were filmed on a studio set in Burbank, California, with so much of the production team using the outdoor spaces surrounding the rodeo and desert chain gang set up, filming on location in the Arizona deserts was unavoidable.
Interestingly enough, Stir Crazy marks the first film where a black actor (Pryor) earned a million dollars for one film. Subsequently, Poitier became the first black director to garner $100 million at the box office. A record breaker and trailblazing film all around!
So, where were your favorite Stir Crazy scenes filmed and how can you visit them? Let’s dive in and find out.
Opening scene in Stir Crazy
Sutton Place, Manhattan
The opening scene of Stir Crazy intends to serve as a love letter to New York with Skip singing an ode to the city, which includes the line “People say I’m crazy”, giving a foreshadowing of the utter madness that’s to come.
While this song is being sung, we see the standard sweeping shots of Manhattan, but we also see the madness of people on the street, including a woman getting a heel stuck in a grate, only for a man to feel up her leg as he attempts to help her get free. She, understandably, turns round and attacks him with her handbag.
Once the montage settles at ground level, these acts of everyday madness are filmed at 19 Sutton Place, Manhattan. Located near the Queensboro Bridge on the border of Midtown East, Lenox Hill and the East River, there isn’t a whole lot going on there anymore, but it does have that distinct Manhattan vibe with the bridge poking through the grid system.
You can reach this end of town on the M31 and M57 buses, with stops right outside this particular Stir Crazy filming location.
Woodpecker scene in Stir Crazy
Valley National Bank Building
So, the scene that causes all the problems. When the pair get to Arizona, they’re in need of money and Skip convinces a bank manager to let them dress up and perform a song about how much their customers will save with that particular branch. What are they dressed up as you ask? Well, woodpeckers of course!
The song begins, “Oh you’ll save money, knock on wood!”, and continues onwards in a similarly cheesy way, much to the delight of the customers around them.
This iconic Stir Crazy scene was filmed in the Valley National Bank Building at 2 E. Congress Street, Tucson, Arizona. It’s actually the oldest skyscraper in Tucson, hailing back from 1929, so the architecture is exquisite. This historical landmark does still house a bank, but it’s a Chase Bank rather than the independent savings company in the film.
You’ll find the Congress - Stone light rail stop right outside the building, so it’s easily accessible and there’s no need to drive and find parking in the middle of the city.
Harry gets taught rodeo scene in Stir Crazy
Tucson Rodeo Grounds
Upon discovering that Skip has an innate talent when it comes to staying on a mechanical bull, it’s up to two inmates Jack (Jonathan Banks) and Blade (Charles Weldon), to get both Skip and Harry in tip top condition. Jack was previously the rodeo champion and dislikes the pair for getting in his way, while Blade, an axe-murderer, resents having to babysit the pair until the contest is over.
When Harry goes down to the rodeo ground, he explains that he’s a bit of a clown, fun and carefree to which Blade replies:
“A rodeo clown is the most dangerous job in the world!”
Shortly after that, he releases what looks like a very angry bull. Dangerous indeed.
This particular Stir Crazy Scene was filmed at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds, which can be found at 4823 S. 6th Avenue, Tucson, Arizona. Located in the Fairgrounds neighborhood of Tucson, where better to film a rodeo-related scene than a real-life rodeo ground.
Tucson Rodeo Grounds still host regular rodeo events throughout the year and is easily accessible with a variety of buses stopping right outside the gates.
The pair enter prison scene in Stir Crazy
Arizona State Prison
After being wrongly accessed and subsequently charged, Harry and Skip make their way into the prison for the first time. Trying to mentally and physically prepare themselves for whatever lies ahead of them, Harry turns his actor chops on and decides to get in character as he swaggers down the corridor.
Skip: “What are you doing?”
Harry “I’m getting bad.”
Harry” You gotta get bad, if you don’t get bad you’re gonna get f**ked.”
For the prison scenes, which is the vast majority of the film, the Stir Crazy production team opted to shoot in a real-life, functioning Arizona Prison. In fact, it was the Arizona State Prison located at 1305 E. Butte Avenue, Florence, Arizona. Most of the filming was done in the Central Unit of the prison complex, away from the day-to-day running of the prison.
As this is a functioning prison, they’re not exactly doing tours for tourists, but if you know someone who is there, or just want to drive by and check out the exterior if you’re in the area, you’re probably going to need your own car. The CART bus does stop in Florence, but it’s a few blocks from the prison itself.
The sentencing scene in Stir Crazy
Historic Pima County Courthouse
Towards the start of the film, the pair get the shock of their lives when the judge doesn’t believe that they’re the wrong people. After charging them with a long list of crimes including bank robbery, the judge deals them a sentence of 125 years in a maximum security prison.
This leads to a series of disbelieving outbursts from both Harry and Skip, with Skip bursting out “We didn’t do it, there’s been a misunderstanding!” That’s what they all say, but in this case, they’re dead right.
Located in the heart of the El Presidio neighborhood in Tucson, this Stir Crazy scene was filmed in the Historic Pima County Courthouse. This building is a major landmark in the city and you can take tours of this location and even just sit in the courtyard and enjoy the atmosphere.
With a large parking lot next door, backing onto El Presidio Plaza, you can drive here or take advantage of the many, many bus routes that stop right outside this popular Tucson site.
Hospital scene in Stir Crazy
Warner Brothers Burbank Studios
During the rodeo process, the Warden tasks Blade and Jack with breaking the pair so that they’re more open and amenable to the rodeo process. When they fail, the Warden takes matters into his own hands. Shortly after Harry is sent to the hospital wing with appendicitis.
Once there, another patient, Rory Schultebrand (Georg Stanford Brown), tells him how bad the hospital is, giving him the following advice:
“They’ve got this Korean doctor, just set foot in this country, make sure you don’t get him, he’s the one who made the mistake on me.” The mistake? Rory came in with a hernia and left castrated. Pretty hard to mix those up!
For many of the interior shots that weren’t possible to get on location in the real prison, the Stir Crazy production team opted to use Stage 15 at Warner Brothers Burbank Studios. Located at 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California, just across the river from Universal, you can absolutely get a behind the scenes tour of the studio - in fact, it’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in Hollywood.
There’s a huge parking lot at the studios and the 501, PR and 549 bus routes stop right outside the studio gates. Make sure you book your tickets in advance as it gets busy pretty much all year round.
If you have a film that has the marquee names of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor leading the charge, you know you’re in for a fun, hilarious and entertaining ride. It’s an off the wall film that definitely lives up to its name. Cementing Wilder and Pryors iconic comedic connection - they had six hit comedies together in total - Stir Crazy is certainly an entertaining way to spend a few hours.
With a lot of the film being shot actually on location, if you’re in the Tucson area, it’s definitely possible to work out a sort of Stir Crazy location tour. Use the coordinates in this article to help you get started and you can stand where they stood and imagine you’re in this positively insane film too.