The Candidate movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was The Candidate filmed?

1972

About The Candidate

Robert Redford and Michael Ritchie teamed up to work on The Candidate, as the main star and director respectively. The duo roped in Jeremy Larner to work on the screenplay, just about a month before filming commenced. Larner, who previously served as Senator Eugene J. McCarthy’s speechwriter, tirelessly worked from noon to 3 AM each day to complete the script.

The premise centers on Bill McKay (Redford) who is recruited by a political election specialist, Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle), to run for office. Contesting on a Democratic ticket, he opposes Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter), a three-term California Senator.

Having had difficulties finding an eager Democratic candidate to step up to the task, Lucas seeks out McKay mostly because of his idealistic appearance and political ties. The young, charismatic, storefront lawyer is the son of California’s former governor, John J. McKay (Melvyn Douglas).

McKay represents the underdog, and as Lucas says, the outcome of elections is already decided. That gives McKay the liberty to run the campaign as he wants, and he takes the opportunity to spread his values. Still, Lucas enlists the services of Howard Klein (Allen Garfield), a media specialist, to whip up the storefront lawyer into a winning candidate.

McKay cruises through the Democratic nominations unopposed but soon after, Lucas receives distressing news. The latest poll projections indicate that he stands to lose the elections by a landslide margin. While they knew fully well that McKay didn’t stand to win the elections, the last thing Lucas wants is to have him gravely humiliated.

Garfield steps in to help moderate McKay’s messages in a way that appeals to a broader voter pool, and particularly to win over swing voters. On the campaign trail, his messages become increasingly generic, but the approach works. He steadily rises in the polls but still, yet another problem crops up.

City Locations

San Jose, Monterey, Oakland, Ross, San Diego, San Francisco

Location Types

Retail, Hotels/Motels, Schools/Colleges, Theaters

Location Styles

Luxury Hotel, School,

The Candidate Locations

Described as a “labor of love” for Redford, The Candidate production process commenced in December 1971 and filming wrapped up in March 1972. The production team filmed extensively around the state of California.

The late John V. Tunney, who served as the Senator for California from 1971 to 1977, inspired McKay’s character. Larner based several of the plotlines on Tunney’s 1970 Senate election campaign. Nelson Rising, who was Tunney’s campaign manager, is credited as an associate producer of the film.

Larner also drew inspiration from McCarthy’s campaign experience. In particular, the scene portraying McKay getting berated in a men’s room happened to the late Minnesota Senator.

McCarthy also, unfortunately, lived through the incident of getting slugged in the face, after someone handed him a hotdog and drink so that his hands were full. These are just a few of the interesting tidbits about the critically acclaimed political drama and let us dive right into the filming locations of The Candidate.

Fun facts:

The release of the political drama coincided with the 1972 California Presidential primaries. Promotional posters mirrored political campaign material, with a photo of Redford bearing the slogan, “McKay: The Better Way!”

The elder McKay shows up for his son scene in The Candidate

Eastridge Mall, 2200 Eastridge Loop, San Jose, CA

The overall campaign started slowly before picking up speed once McKay started up on the campaign trail. Up until then, McKay’s father had been uninterested in his campaigns and had not publicly displayed his support for his son. The media interpreted it as a possible endorsement of the opposition.

The young McKay grudgingly plans a media meet-up with his father. That is before asking his old man if he ran his own campaigns, to which the elder McKay responds, “why, sh*t yes, what do you take me for?

His dad then explains to the media that his silence was simply because he decided to honor his son’s wishes to run the race on his own merit.

The Candidate production team also filmed at the Eastridge Mall in San Jose. Officially known as the Eastridge Center, the mall opened its doors in 1971 and has since gone through several redesigns.

The anchor stores housed at the shopping complex include AMC Theaters, JCPenney, 24 Hour Fitness, and Round 1 Entertainment. Besides the political drama, the mall also hosted the “Logan’s Run” filming crew.

McKay delivers a heartfelt speech scene in The Candidate

Westin St. Francis Hotel, 335 Powell St, San Francisco, CA

Soon, McKay is only nine points down and Jarmon suggests that they duke it out in political fashion - through a debate. With tailored answers for the big discourse, McKay suddenly becomes overcome with a stab of consciousness.

After all, he never wanted to run a campaign that would force him to abandon his principles. It was the moment of realization that he had compromised himself and the beliefs that sent him into the tirade.

McKay broke out in a speech addressing critical issues like race relations and poverty. Part of his speech explains, “can’t any longer playoff black against old – young against poor. This country cannot house its houseless – feed its foodless.”

The Westin St. Francis Hotel at 335 Powell Street was one of The Candidate locations. Constructed in 1904, the hotel features two 12-story south wings and a double-width north wing. The Tower building at the rear is a 32-story addition completed in 1972.

It stands as one of the largest hotels in San Francisco with over 1,254 suites and rooms. Other productions that have been filmed at the hotel include “The Conversation,” “Rumor Has It,” and “Itinerary of a Spoiled Child.”

Bus 14R, 38R, and 38 as well as the LTD 5 train can get you to the Westin St. Francis Hotel.

McKay gets his dad’s approval scene in The Candidate

Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland, CA

After McKay’s outburst during the debate, Lucas is quite furious with him, knowing that his outburst has negatively impacted the campaign. As members of the fourth estate throng backstage, they catch the heartwarming moment when the elder McKay congratulates his son on the debate.

“Well done, son,” his dad says as McKay finally feels like he has earned his dad’s respect. The story takes a turn and becomes all about how the former governor reemerged to support his son.

The Paramount Theatre in Oakland stood in for the campaign headquarters. Located at 2025 Broadway, the Art Deco concert hall has a 3,040-seat capacity. With roots in 1931, the theatre currently houses the Oakland Ballet and the Oakland East Bay Symphony.

The Candidate filming location regularly hosts R&B, pop, jazz, rock, and other musical events. The venue also hosts special events, stand-up comedy, concerts, lectures, and screenings of beloved classics from Hollywood’s Golden Era.

Some of the other productions that converted the theater into film-shoot locations include “Tucker: The Man and His Dreams,” “Bonnie Raitt: Road Tested,” and “Oh Happy Day.”

Bus 6, NL, and 72 as well as the CC train can get you to the Paramount Theatre.

McKay meets the labor union boss scene in The Candidate

Marin Art & Garden Center, Box 437, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Ross, CA

With McKay’s dad helping with the campaign trail and the positive spin to the debate story, the polling gap closes further. The elder McKay sets up a meet-and-greet for his son with a representative of the labor union.

At first, it’s a tense meeting and in jest, McKay says that he is not interested in associating with the labor boss. They cut the tension by breaking into uncomfortable laughter.

A publicized endorsement from the union also boosts McKay’s poll ratings. That is even after he delivers the line, “so vote once, vote twice, for Bill McKay…you middle-class honkies.”

The Marin Art & Garden Center in Ross, California served as one of The Candidate film sets. Occupying 11 acres, the botanical garden features manicured lawns, the Barn Theater, and several historic buildings. It is also home to the Ross Valley Players, a theater company.

In 2022, the property earned its way to the official list of the National Register of Historic Places. Hop onto bus 22 to get to the Marin Art & Garden Center.

Jarmon releases an ad lampooning McKay scene in The Candidate

Bush Street and Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA

During one rally dinner, the MC introduces McKay in grand style. “Seriously folks, you better watch your step when he comes out here because he’s a man who shoots from the hip and a man who is hip when he shoots. Join me in welcoming Bill McKay!”

When Jarmon realizes that McKay is climbing up the polls, he releases an ad lampooning his opponent’s inexperience. The mudslinging campaign paints McKay as a schoolboy literally standing on a soapbox.

The night before D-day, it is clear that McKay might emerge as the victor. It’s bittersweet because, along the way, he had to sell out in terms of what he stood for. Even more, gutting is when he finds Lucas’s matchbook with the words “you lose” written on it.

The crew filmed the political rally scenes at Bush Street and Montgomery Street in San Francisco. Montgomery Street might be familiar to anyone who has watched “Venom,” and Bush Street has been featured in “The Game,” “Vertigo,” and “Chinatown Kid.”

Hop onto bus NL 1, 114, or 8BX to get to The Candidate location for a photo op.

McKay wins the election scene in The Candidate

Sather Gate, University of California, Sather Rd, Berkeley, CA

The biggest payoff is when McKay clinches the win, much to everyone’s surprise. In the final scene, he escapes the victory speech as throngs of journalists filing into the ballroom follow. He pulls Lucas into an empty room and memorably asks, “what do we do now?”

It is yet another running gag, McKay constantly pulls Lucas away from crowds for private talks. Often it’s at inconvenient places, including a bathroom and cockpit, to name a few. The throng of journalists and McKay’s campaign workers burst into the room, leaving McKay’s question unanswered.

The University of California, Berkeley is listed as one of the filming locations of The Candidate. It features in the Sather Gate shot seen in the movie. From Strawberry Creek, the landmark separates Sproul Plaza and the center of the campus.

Jane K. Sather, a U.C. Berkeley alumni donated the gate to the university in memory of her husband Peder Sather. The Sather gate is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Conclusion

Besides the listed location, The Candidate production crew also filmed in Tracy, King City, and Monterey. Natalie Wood made a cameo in the political drama as herself, even after semi-retiring at the time. Several newscasters also made cameos in the film including Howard K. Smith.

The late South Dakota Senator, George McGovern, and the 38th Vice President of the United States, Hubert Humphrey, also appear in the film. The two were rivals for the 1972 Democratic nomination, which McGovern won. They are seen at the banquet McKay hosts.

Out of three Oscar nominations, Larner’s screenplay earned the movie an Academy Award.