Ordinary People (1980) Filming Locations

Location #1: The gazebo

East Center Avenue (near West Scranton Avenue), Lake Bluff, Illinois, United States

Location #2: The church

700 North Sheridan Road, Lake Forest, Illinois, United States

Location #3: School

Lake Forest High School, 1285 North McKinley Road, Lake Forest, Illinois, United States

Location #4: House of the family

1199 Lincoln Avenue South, Highland Park, Illinois, United States

Location #5: Psychiatrist’s office

Sheridan Road & Central Avenue, Highland Park, Illinois, United States

10 thoughts on “Ordinary People (1980) Filming Locations

  1. Jay J. Carley

    How about THE REST OF THE STORY of the filming of Ordinary People. There is no mention or credit given to Ft. Sheridan, Il were there were three sets and who constructed them. Look on the credits and there is no mention of carpenters, plumbers or electricians. I was there,I was the electrical led man, I wired the sets, I prepped the building and when filming was over I returned the building electrical to its origin. The local theatrical guild sent out personal that had little or no knowledge of the trades. The Government Employees from the Engineering yard worked after hours and on weekends to complete the tasks on hand. This was no small job. The instalation delivered on its promise to give the film crew the privacy they asked for and then when skilled labor was not available it allowed its work force to build the sets, assist with their expertise during filming and return the building to it origin. You can ask Ron Swore ( sorry Ron spelled your name wrong , its been a long time), the carpenter foreman, and even Robert, who was allowed to take his morning jogs around the post unharassed. So there is more to the story and so much credit that has and is not given. Jay J. Carley 608 797 5937. jaycarley@gmail.com

  2. Nat

    I saw this movie in my junior year in college, on my Thanksgiving break. I was so blown away by the acting and intensity and Redford’s directing that I sat in stunned silence for a long time after the credits rolled and continued to think about the movie for many days thereafter. This is my favorite movie of all time, and remains so to this day.

    Ordinary People has a special personal significance to me because my college neighbor was an extra in this film, and I could see him standing in the doorway, in partial silhouette, during Conrad’s fight with his former best friend outside the high school.

    I wish I could thank Robert Redford and the entire crew personally for this masterpiece. It’s just that special of a film.

  3. Tim Irish

    I was impressed when researching the film that select interiors were shot on sets constructed on a base outside of Chicago and far from the North Shore. These interiors were utterly convincing–so well-lit, so much of what they ought to be (two floors of the Jarrett house and the entirety of Berger’s office suite). The kitchen even had a plumbed sink with a working garbage disposal for that important shot when Beth efficiently tosses Conrad’s breakfast down the drain. This was outstanding work. When I look back at the film so many years later, I am still convinced by the authenticity of these interiors.

  4. Justin

    OMG, this blog post is amazing. Yes this film is like a very dear friend to me. I’m disappointed and amazed any of this was shot on a set. Disappointed because I’d like to think the acting happened in real houses but amazed because it looked so real. The other amazing thing about this film is the roles are flipped. It’s usually the father that’s the hard ass and the mother encouraging one. It just melts my heart when I see the scenes with Donald Sutherland. Whenever I need a good cry THIS is the film I go to. And every time I watch it I catch a new theme or angle. Such the sign of great art/literature. Thank you all for such a wonderful job.

    1. Tim Irish

      I have been told that since the scenes involving the three Jarretts were so intense, director Redford wanted extensive rehearsal (almost unknown in films these days) and multiple takes. These scenes are the heart of the conflict in the film. Also, as the Panaflex cameras used in filmmaking at that time were so bulky, a crew measured each of the rooms in the actual Lake Bluff Jarrett house and then drew up plans to reproduce the interiors in the hanger at Fort Sheridan: they added a couple of feet to the length and width of each room to allow camera movement, just moving the furniture toward one wall or another between camera setups to create the illusion of the actual house. It really worked. The hanger lacked the height to build a two-story house interior, so one set had a staircase leading up to nowhere and another had a staircase leading down to nowhere. Dr. Berger’s office was a brief walk from the family’s living room.

      The exterior of the real family home was spruced up a bit. The lawn was reseeded, then tarped for a time so it would give the illusion of beginning to go dormant with the coming winter. The exterior of the brick house had its icy white paint retouched, the black shutters were added, the neoclassical moulding over the door was milled out of wood, painted white then double-sided taped to the wall. The line of small boxwoods were added to help define the circular drive and the house’s plebian asphalt drive was tarped and covered with more traditional pea gravel.

      The master bath of the actual house doubled as the flowery bathroom of the grandparent’s house (where Conrad washes his hands and examines his scars after he has learned of Karen’s suicide). A garden room was actually added to the real house so Beth could have that heart wrenching moment wherein she gazes through the glass at her tormented son–and (for an instant) obviously wishes there was something she might do to help him. The production crew took special care to build the room high enough off the ground so it would not disturb the homeowner’s prized flower bed just underneath.

  5. Tim Irish

    One day, I hope Mr. Redford will donate his production materials to a university or the Motion Picture Academy Library so they might be studied. Up till now, he has been very private about his directing process. One could really write an entertaining mainstream book (with illustrations) on the making of this film from Redford’s initial reading of the yet-unpublished novel in galley form, to his charming of novelist Judy Guest across her kitchen table (they reached a handshake agreement that she would give him the film rights for one million dollars and she would have input on the production of the film–there was never a written contract between the two) to the Oscar night when the film received several very significant awards. With the sad exception of Ms. Moore, all of the primary cast still survives and it would be fascinating to read their accounts of the shooting of the film. Mr. Redford did record a secondary audio commentary for an early DVD version of Ordinary People, but that recording was somehow lost and he declined to do another. The new Blu Ray edition of the film has a new interview with Timothy Hutton, but no director’s commentary.

  6. Carole Miller

    When they were filming the movie in Lake Forest, our cousin (Sharon) was in a restaurant and spotted Robert Redford having lunch with another male. She approached their table and asked the other man if she could have his autograph, ignoring the star. After much laughter, Mr. Redford obliged.


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