“Big wheels keep on turning, carry me home to see my kin.” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
There’s something about being raised in the South. It’s an effervescent feeling, the need to return to your roots, no matter how far you may roam. Sweet Home Alabama is a story that is truly about coming home again.
Melanie Smooter grew up poor in a tiny town, in rural Alabama, but always dreamed of having more. After an interesting childhood and a subsequent marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Melanie runs away from her hum-drum Southern life and makes it to New York City. You know what they say, “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Melanie changes her last name to Carmichael, invents a romantic background story of Southern privilege, and becomes a New York fashion designer and socialite. But, after snagging the mayor of New York’s handsome son and becoming engaged to him, Melanie is forced to return to her humble roots and ask her high school sweetheart (who she’s still married to) for a divorce.
The film is a 2002 release from Touchstone Pictures and directed by Andy Tennant, who also directed such films as Ever After, Fools Rush In, and the Academy Award winning Anna and the King, starring Jodi Foster. Sweet Home Alabama stars the precious Reese Witherspoon as Melanie, Patrick Dempsey, Josh Lucas, and Candice Bergen.
Did you know that Dakota Fanning played the young Melanie Smooter in the first scene of this film? In fact, Dakota is originally a Conyers native, having graduated from the local Montessori School of Covington with her younger sister, Elle! How’s that for a small-town connection?
Naturally, filmmakers sought out the perfect Southern towns for their film locations. While the film showcases many Georgia landmarks, like Berry College’s Oak Hill, which was chosen as Melanie’s fictional home, it was in Covington where they found the location of Melanie’s true childhood home: The Smooter’s trailer. To re-create the backwoods Smooter homestead, producers chose Covington as the ideal location.
Scouts searched throughout Newton County and found a scenic trailer court complete with a pond, which served as the Smooter property. They hauled a prefabricated trailer to the site, which had been refitted to accommodate the filming equipment and cameras, and refurbished it with props to create that distinctively Southern feel. In fact, every scene in the Smooter trailer feels just like visiting your Grandmother’s house. Which is probably why the filmmakers chose Covington. Because it’s just like coming home again.