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The Wizard – Opening Sequence

A small, but dedicated group of fans have done a lot of research into filming locations used in the 1989 cult classic film “The Wizard”, including this great article by Joey Crandall of the Carson Valley Times:

The article is loaded with new information about how the film was created behind the scenes. It’s a great read, and if you’re a fan of the film but haven’t taken the time to check out Joey’s article, you should definitely do so.

In Joey’s article, then Nevada Film Commissioner Robin Holabird explains how the film’s iconic opening shot of Jimmy walking down the highway alone was filmed on the Pyramid Highway just outside of Reno.

This highway actually includes Nevada highways 445, 446, and 447 which together form a bit of a circle route from Reno to Pyramid Lake and back. So, it was a good place to start hunting for this elusive filming location, and a great drive besides.

What was not expected, though, was to instead discover that the opening sequence was actually filmed in two separate locations. But first, the key to figuring this all out revolved around a lone tree. You can see the tree (red arrow) and Jimmy just in front of it (yellow arrow). Note the outline of the mountains in the background, and the gentle slope to the right of the shot:

The image to the right was taken in 2016 at this location near Pyramid Lake – you can clearly see the tree in Google’s satellite view. Google provides a street view as well. You can compare the landscape and see that it’s an exact match to the shot from the film.,-119.4415852,168m/data=!3m1!1e3

Here’s an “up close” view of the tree without its leaves in winter:

But suddenly, the opening sequence of the film changes to a close-up of Jimmy’s journey:

Notice how the mountains in the background changed? There are also other inconsistencies in the opening sequence as well. Consider that the tree appears just to the left of the frame (but in front of the vehicle) where the officer stops Jimmy, but then the tree is nowhere in sight when the vehicle pulls away:

Even the colors of the shots dramatically shift from one cut to the next. The shots filmed near the tree were taken during the day, but the other shots taken at the unknown location during sunset. The slope to the right of the shot mysteriously disappears with the tree as well.

That’s one half of the puzzle solved, so far as where the opening sequence for “The Wizard” was filmed goes. The reasons why it was cut together from two separate filming locations will probably forever remain unknown. It’s possible that the film makers wanted to use one shot for the great aerial shot of Jimmy walking down the highway (from the airplane), and give a sense of Jimmy being tracked down by aircraft, but wanted to use the other shot to show off a sunset. But that’s just a guess.

In the meanwhile, if you’re in the Reno area and are a fan of this iconic 1980’s film, take some time to drive around and enjoy the sights – it’s well worth your time!