Heard Santa Rosa mentioned in ‘Bird Box’? It’s name-dropping for a sense of place

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Millions of people have watched “Bird Box,” the Netflix thriller released last month that stars Sandra Bullock as a blindfolded mother trying to lead children to a sanctuary while avoiding a supernatural monster.

Attentive local watchers of “Bird Box” may notice Santa Rosa is mentioned as a destination early in the movie. Specifically, the largest city in Sonoma County is the home of Bullock’s sister, a character played by actress Sarah Paulson.

The plan is for Paulson and a pregnant Bullock to hunker down there as people start to die strange deaths after catching a glimpse of a sinister entity.

“We’re going straight to Santa Rosa,” Paulson says, while driving Bullock away from a chaotic scene at a hospital. “You can stay at my place until whatever the f--- this is, isn’t.”

Before the chaos, Paulson had planned a trip to Sausalito to inspect a horse, another indication “Bird Box” starts somewhere in the North Bay, perhaps in Sonoma County or Marin County.

However, according to a “Bird Box” producer, the film doesn’t have a specific location and none of it was filmed in Santa Rosa or Sonoma County.

“Honestly, it was meant to be in a kind of nondescript Northern California area,” producer Clayton Townsend said Thursday in an interview.

The goal was to place the movie’s events “somewhere above the Bay Area,” Townsend said, and “Santa Rosa kind of helped.”

Filming the movie in California, and mostly in southern parts of the state, was a decision made based on cost, said Townsend, whose production experience also includes “Natural Born Killers,” “Any Given Sunday,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” and “Bridesmaids.”

“Bird Box” the movie is based on a novel of the same name. However, the book’s events take place in Michigan.

“We wanted to film the movie in California and felt that the actual geographic location wasn’t that critical to the story,” Townsend said, explaining why producers decided to be vague.

Setting the movie in Northern California was somewhat important, though, because the film includes a river running through a misty forest that isn’t found down south. As it turned out, the film’s scenes in which a blindfolded Bullock rows past rapids toward safety were shot on the Smith River near the Oregon border, a setting Townsend said added a “mysterious” feel to Bullock’s secluded journey.

Townsend acknowledged that the film’s producers got creative when it came to the location of the film’s events. With that in mind, viewers should know placing the movie in parts of Northern California and Santa Rosa in particular meant in name only.

“We’re taking some license,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or On Twitter @wsreports.

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