Joe Bell

In the movie “Joe Bell,” Mark Wahlberg plays the title character: A father walking across America to raise awareness about bullying, in tribute to his 15-year-old gay son. The movie was filmed in Utah, and opens in theaters nationwide on July 23.

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A father walks alone from Oregon through Colorado. A bride-to-be and her mom work to make a Latter-day Saint “cultural hall” into an elegant reception spot. A young woman moves to Nashville to pursue her musical dreams. A man works in the limbo of pre-existence, deciding which souls get to become human.

All of these are happening in movies opening in theaters in between now and August 6 — and they were all filmed in Utah.

“We had a 60-mile radius from downtown Salt Lake City,” said Reinaldo Marcus Green, director of the drama “Joe Bell,” which opens in theaters nationwide on July 23. “If you drew a circle around that point, we probably shot in it.”

In the based-on-a-true-story “Joe Bell,” Mark Wahlberg plays the title character, a working-class guy from La Grande, Ore., who decides to walk alone across the country to raise awareness about the dangers of bullying — a walk inspired by his 15-year-old son, Jadin (newcomer Reid Miller), who is tormented at his school because he’s gay.

“Joe traverses several states on his journey from LaGrande to New York City,” Green said in an email interview. “Utah offered the various topography we needed to sell how far he traveled.”

For the Latter-day Saint-themed “Once I Was Engaged,” opening in Utah theaters on July 21 and expanding through the western United States, director Maclain Nelson said they shot in 15 locations around the Wasatch Front. “We bit off a lot more than we thought we might be able to chew,” Nelson said in a phone interview.

This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aim to inform readers across the state. To read the full article, click here.

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