North Carolina, which has an active film industry based in Wilmington, has not done a very good job of promoting sites in the state that have been in films. So let me fill you in on one I thought was very cool — the big pink house that was the primary site for the 2008 film “The Secret Life of Bees.” The movie, featuring Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, and Sophie Okonedo, is based on the book of the same title by Sue Monk Kidd.
I put off reading the popular “Oprah” book for a long time because I thought it would not be “literary” enough, snob that I am, but I quite enjoyed it when I finally got to it, save for the too-tidy ending. The movie, however, was everything I feared the book would be, way too polished. But I love the story line, about a white girl running off with her black housekeeper, only to end up on a peach farm (in South Carolina in the story) that she had a mysterious connection to. Lots of good themes, mainly the wonderfulness of women and the evils of racism.
So a funny little story about finding the house, in Watha, just a few miles west of Interstate 40. The tourism folks there in Pender County didn’t even know where the house was, and the film folks never told me either! Finally, after pressing Pender, I guess they asked somebody for an address, but the result was quite puzzling. I was already in the area doing farm research, and so headed for where they told me, only to find a nondescript light pink house that I knew wasn’t in the film. I was annoyed. Did someone simply say, “find a pink house for that pushy writer”? Leaving “town,” as it was (which it barely is, with 200 residents), I saw a couple old buildings, and decided to go up the street they were on just for fun. Suddenly I passed by a big old pink house on the main street. Bingo!
There was not one clue that the house had been part of a major motion picture. Unfortunately, not until I was home did I find a great article about it by Allison Ballard in the Wilmington Star-News last year, which also mentioned that the stone wall that held the notes the character May wrote was still there, as well as the honey house. Oh well, next time, now that I know where it is. I liked Allison’s decription of the color of the house — “a shade that falls somewhere between raspberry sorbet and Pepto-Bismol.” (I think it’s closer to the sorbet.) Sue Monk Kidd also wrote a fascinating blog entry about being there for part of the filming. According to my GPS, the address is 500 Watha Road.
This wasn’t the first “Secret Life” location I’ve visited. My research for “Farm Fresh North Carolina” earlier took me to Geraldine’s Peaches and Produce in Lumberton, where Geraldine and Roy Herring loaned a part of their peach orchard for the filming. The building there was portrayed as the childhood home of Lily Owens, the main character, before she ran away from her father, T. Ray.
True to movie-making form, because the filming had to be done in the winter, peach tree leaves were made of silk and the fruit was plastic.
The address is 10728 Highway 41 North, about 8 miles east of I-95 in Lumberton. The seasonal farm stand is a great one, and if you ask nice, Geraldine will let you drive back and see the house. Tell her I sent you.