Star-studded cast made 'Beautiful Girls' memorable moment in history of Minnesota-made movies

Tucked under the limestone bluffs in the heart of Stillwater, there's a nod to days gone by.

But nearly 3 decades ago, the Oasis Café had a supporting role in one of the most star-studded movies ever made in Minnesota.

Beautiful Girls was directed by Ted Demme and starred a constellation of young stars including Matt Dillon, Timothy Hutton, Uma Thurman, Mira Sorvino, Rosie O'Donnell, and Natalie Portman in one of her first roles.

The film follows a group of friends as they navigate life and love in a small town and the Oasis Cafe was immortalized on the silver screen as the breakfast spot for some of the main characters.

"Of all the movies I have worked on, it's my favorite," said the film's assistant location manager Anne Healy.

"This was like their hangout, so we shot here. The guys in the movie are snowplow guys. They get up at the crack of dawn and plow snow and drive snow plows and come here after their shift."

Healy says the movie was originally supposed to shoot in Boston but the producers chose to come to Minnesota instead because they thought there would be more snow.

Unfortunately, we had a warmer-than-average winter that year, so the crew had to improvise, hiring an expert to make snow out of shaved ice.

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  (Anne Healy)

"He created a shredder that shreds blocks of ice and makes it look like white snow. It lasts for 12 hours so you can film all day. It's really great at night. We seriously had semis coming every morning with blocks of ice. He was trying to get enough blocks of ice from around the country to do every scene we needed to do," said Healy.

From February to May of 1995, the production shot at locations around the Twin Cities including Bryant Lake Bowl, the Hopkins House, and the 5 Corners bar, while Stillwater was the stand-in for the fictional town of Knight's Ridge, Massachusetts, where the story was set.

But Beautiful Girls wasn't the only movie being made in Minnesota at that time.

"Fargo" and "Feeling Minnesota" were also shooting here and Healy says the actors from all three films were put up at the same hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

"Cameron Diaz, that was her first movie, ‘Feeling Minnesota.’ And then Keanu Reeves. All the actors from our cast. Steve Buscemi from ‘Fargo.’ They were all at the Marquette. If you were running errands and went into the hotel, chances are the stars from one of the three movies that were shooting were standing there in the lobby," said Healy.

Location Manager Andrew Peterson says that year was the high point for Minnesota's movie industry, with 3 major motion pictures filming here all at once.

"At that time, we were the hottest place in the country. Minnesota was the place to be and studios came over and over again because it was a really pleasant experience to shoot here and they loved the crews, they loved the locations, the ease of getting around, the cost of living, the nightlife, the social things they were able to do. It was a really exciting time," said Peterson.

Despite its buzzy cast and mostly positive reviews, Beautiful Girls wasn't a blockbuster hit but Healy says it has developed a devoted following over the years, especially on the East Coast.

"It started getting a lot of feedback from college guys. Guys in college. It became like their favorite movie. So I'll be somewhere and I'll say I worked on Beautiful Girls and people will say that's my favorite movie. It isn't Grumpy Old Men, but there's a whole cross-section of the country that really loves Beautiful Girls," said Healy.

And even though Beautiful Girls wasn't set here in Minnesota, crew members say it holds a unique spot in the state's movie-making history.

"I think as far as ensembles here, I think it's by far the most starry cast. Given the sheer number of people. It has a special place in Minnesota-made movies in that it was a little shock and awe with the cast," said Peterson.