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North Carolina steals this show

Chris Council and Emily Chaplin

Sylva’s downtown, against the backdrop of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains at dusk.

By Diane Daniel Globe correspondent 

Don’t let the title fool you. If you want to check out filming sites for the runaway Hollywood hit “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” don’t head for the Show-Me State. The locations that stand in for fictional Ebbing, where Frances McDormand plays a mother who goes after the local police department for failing to solve her daughter’s murder, are all in North Carolina. The towns, situated along the Blue Ridge Mountain range, include Sylva, Dillsboro, Maggie Valley, and Black Mountain, and are all worthy of visits in their own rights.

To aid curious travelers, Visit North Carolina, the state’s tourism department, has compiled a three-day trip planner directing “Ebbing” fans to filming sites. Highlights include the consignment/gift shop Sassy Frass in Sylva, which was transformed into the Ebbing Police Department, and Country Traditions, a Dillsboro food and beverage shop that doubled as the workplace for McDormand’s character. Also on the list are Town Pump Tavern in Black Mountain, which served as Ebbing’s local bar, and J. Arthur’s Restaurant in Maggie Valley, the steakhouse where the character James (Peter Dinklage) takes Mildred (McDormand) to dinner. The restaurant’s mountain-view sign even gets a cameo.

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As for the location of the billboards themselves, they were constructed for the shoot and erected along North Fork Left Fork Road, which circles Black Mountain. Though the billboards are long gone (filming took place in 2016, from February to June), the house that served as the exterior location for Mildred’s home remains, but is a private residence.

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Visit North Carolina’s planner also finds a way to include western North Carolina’s shining star of Asheville, which is where actor Woody Harrelson (who played Police Chief Willoughby) spent time.

Since opening in November, “Three Billboards” has amassed a long list of awards and nominations, including four Golden Globes, three Screen Actors Guild awards, and seven Oscar nominations, including best picture and lead actress.

Before “Ebbing,” western North Carolina was last in the spotlight with “The Hunger Games” (also starring Harrelson), and earlier served as the backdrop for “Dirty Dancing,” “Nell,” and “The Fugitive.”


Diane Daniel can be reached at diane@bydianedaniel.com.