In this Brokeback Mountain then and now, the character Jack Twist has just travelled to Mexico to hook up with a prostitute, a scene that was actually shot in Calgary. Mexico…Calgary…who’s to know? All they needed to complete this chapter in the story was a suitably seedy alley, which they found at a local industrial complex.
After an earlier argument with his sometimes lover Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger), Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) heads south of border to seek out some male companionship. At this date in the movie, the late 1960s, homosexuality was neither common place nor accepted and to find solace Jack would go where no questions were asked, the streets and back alleys of a Mexican border town. The location suggested is Ciudad Juarez or simply just Juarez, across the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo River from El Paso Texas.
Walking through a marketplace, we see Jack head up a dark side alley. Many men loiter about, some who’s faces and postures tell us they are clearly looking to trade money for sex. Jack eyes up one, and after a brief conversation, they head off into the darkness, the rest being left to your imagination. And so ends this brief passage in the movie.
In fact these scenes were shoot inside the old Riverside Iron Works complex. Built in the late 1920s, the factory made all manner of machinery and equipment. Their output was diverse and if it was made of metal, it seems Riverside could manufacturer it. For example, this author has seen coal mine cars and truck mounted water tanks made by this company, among other things.
Not long after opening, Riverside was purchased by the huge Dominion Bridge conglomerate, who soon expanded the factory. During that time, many large scale engineering projects were taken on. While Dominion closed in the late 1980s, other metal fabricating firms moved in to replace them.
Today some of the site is still used for factory space, while other parts, like the buildings we visited, have or will be tuned into trendy offices and artist’s studios. The alley we visited is within the oldest section of the plant. At the time Brokeback Mountain was filmed (2004), I believe the buildings seen in this report were still home to a metal fabricating company and had not yet been converted to their current form.
Today the alley leads to a number of offices and no prostitutes male or otherwise are to be seen – nor any cowboys looking for love. There is coffee house at the entrance to the cove and customers inside watched us with great interest as we walked about taking pictures. That place, by the way, smelled wonderful, quite a contrast to the factory “funk” that used to, presumably, waft up from these buildings.
As you can see the once gritty alley is all nice and cleaned up. It’s clearly the same place though and many architectural elements match up in both the then and now pictures. Window sills in particular were of help here. One building seen in the reverse angle, opposite the alley entrance, is gone now. It’s not know if the the window bars and numerous electrical components seen were props or real. Some of the white barrels seen in our photos are for catching rain, while others light up at night. Other bits of art were also scattered about.
This author has passed by the “Mexican alley” numerous times in the 1990s when I drove an oilfield truck. A firm I used to haul for made gas plant vessels and the like in one of the former Dominion Bridge buildings further into the complex.
Interestingly this filming location was not known to us until we did an earlier report on the Riverside/Dominion complex in December 2013 (link below). We had examined the alley that visit and the whole time had this odd feeling we had seen it before. Then it hit us, this was he Mexican alley in Brokeback Mountain. What a coincidence, found entirely by dumb luck – thanks to a photographic memory.
Images from the movie are copyright Focus Features.
The buildings seen in our report were once the…
Riverside Iron Works.
To see some other movie “then and now” reports we’ve done, follow these links…
Brokeback Mountain then and now – Elks Lodge and Ennis’ apartment.
Superman 3 then and now – opening scenes.
Silver Streak move then and now – walking the tracks.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: February, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.