What do Dustin Hoffman the Tiger do the Hangover, and the musician Machine Gun Kelly all have in common? If this sounds like the setup for a Kevin Bacon Sixth Degree story, you should know he is actually also involved.
They reply that they shot all the films in Thomasville, Georgia. Fourth-generation Thomasvillian Allen Cheney and his production company, Thomasville Pictures, are responsible for bringing a little bit of Hollywood to this charming southwest corner of Georgia. Movies filmed here include The Tiger’s Rebellion with Dennis Quaid and Queen Latifah, bandit with Mel Gibson and Josh Duhamel and disposable with Machine Gun Kelly and Kevin Bacon. Cheney and his partner Ryan Smith also recently swaddled Sam & Kate starring Dustin Hoffman and Sissy Spacek in the title roles.
Today, Cheney splits his time between Los Angeles and Thomasville, embracing the best of each place and taking great joy in bringing the two together. We recently sat down to discuss how to bring movies to this part of Georgia and why fall is the best time to visit.
How hard was it convincing Hollywood guys to film so far off the beaten path?
A few years ago, a couple of the films I was a part of producing wanted to shoot in Atlanta. With the cost and logistics being so limiting, I got the idea of getting the rest of the team to experience Thomasville and see if we had a chance of making it work here.
This visit couldn’t have been better – it was like a scene from Chevy Chase Funny farm when everything is almost too perfect: the weather, the accommodation, the restaurants, the people. It was amazing. The whole scene already felt like a movie that day.
Thomasville has long been touted as the quail hunting capital of the world, which is a major draw at this time of year. What else is going on in town?
Thomasville truly has a worldwide reputation for the caliber of quail hunting that we have here. I was in England not long ago and happened to strike up a conversation with a born and bred Englishman who asked me where I was from. When I told him, he replied, “I was in Thomasville shooting quail. One of the coolest experiences of my life.”
The other thing people might not know is how robust our arts and culture scene is here. The Wildlife Arts Festival (November 10-20), now in its 27th year, coincides with the opening of quail season. Ten days of art shows and events like the Red Hills Rover Rally and Whiskey in the Woods support the Thomasville Center for the Arts doing a great job here. You may come for quail season, but you should stay for the Wildlife Arts Festival.
tell us about your Thomasville.
My brother Stephen and I like to go to the Savannah Moon Bakery for breakfast. Dennis Quaid and Mel Gibson fell in love with breakfast at Empire Bagel & Delicatessen in Thomasville’s Bottom District. Grassroots Coffee has the best coffee in town.
For lunch I go to Jonah’s Fish & Grits on Jackson Street. Next door is Liam’s Restaurant, where owner Rhonda Foster has created an English pub feel with an excellent menu and the best cocktails. Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox loved the Sweet Grass Dairy Restaurant and Cheese Shop on Broad Street and would often sit at a table by the front window just to watch the city go by. George & Louie’s is a Thomasville institution and this is where I meet my grandparents for lunch.
I’ve always thought if you want to understand Thomasville by walking into a store, it’s undoubtedly Kevin’s: it’s Thomasville in a box. Walk through Kevin’s dark stained double doors and you’ll see why. (Also don’t miss Kevin’s annual Southern Game Fair, November 10-11.)
For antiques, Thomasville is hard to beat. Stop at CH Whitney, owned by Charlie Whitney who has an eye for buying and collecting. Toscoga is another favorite – it’s not uncommon to hear after filming, “We have Toscoga stuff that needs to be shipped back to LA.” At Abode, owners Bryce Gilliard and Thomas Duncan were instrumental in the transformation of Paxton House , a fabled bed and breakfast I bought in early 2022 to fill our need for more production accommodation. Since you cannot enter the Paxton House during the update, you must book a room at the Marriott Courtyard on the corner of Remington Avenue and South Dawson Street, which is within walking distance to downtown. Let me just say this is not a Marriott Courtyard that you have visited before. The top floor penthouse is amazing and where Dustin [Hoffman] and his wife stayed. There is a basic bar and coffee shop in the lobby, so you really do have everything on hand.
Honestly, you have to experience Thomasville to understand it: the smell of cinnamon buns emanating from Flowers Bakery; the sound of the courthouse bells; children playing running around; and people walking by with their dogs. Sometimes it’s like a perfectly staged movie scene.