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Lost River Filming Locations In Detroit: In Ryan Gosling’s Footsteps

Iain De Caestecker starring in Lost River, on filming location in Detroit, MI

As some of us very well know, Ryan Gosling hasn’t only been acting in the recent years. He’s also spent a lot of time preparing, writing and directing his very first feature film, Lost River, starring  Christina Hendricks, Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Matt Smith (Doctor Who).  The movie came out in 2014 and was filmed in the previous couple of years in Detroit, Michigan. And since Mr. Gosling is Tiia’s #1 forever bae, we decided to look up a few Lost River filming locations during our Great Movie Roadtrip in 2016.

We knew that most of the buildings had been demolished soon after the movie was filmed and that Gosling, indeed, wanted to use those locations to preserve their memory, so we really didn’t have any other choice than to head over and see if any of it was still there.

I wanted to shoot these buildings because they were tearing them down; I wanted to shoot them before they were gone. It gave me the feeling that I was making this film. It felt like the train had left the station. It let me show people not what it could be, but what it was. -Ryan Gosling for IndieWire

Exploring the Lost River filming locations in Detroit

Lost River filming locations in Detroit, MI

One of the locations was the Brewster-Wheeler Recreation Center, which was still there, although the surrounding buildings you can see in the background of the movie were all gone. Like they were never there. We arrived at the lot and realized it was all fenced off.

Luckily, there was a guard on site, who told us to come back later for a permission to snap a few photos. So we did, and this other guard (apparently the previous guy’s foreman) let us in for fifteen minutes — albeit eyeing us suspiciously the whole time.

Matt Smith starring in Lost River, on filming location in Detroit, MI

In the end, we managed to get a few good sceneframes in front of the building.

Iain De Caestecker starring in Lost River, on filming location in Detroit, MI

As you can see, none of the high residential buildings in the background exist anymore. We had to look at the markings on the ground, lamp-posts and trees to get the location and alignment just right, but yay! We managed.

Matt Smith starring in Lost River, on filming location in Detroit, MI

Matt Smith’s character in the movie is incredible. His character is credited as “Bully” on IMDb, and that’s exactly what he is. But in his awfulness, he’s also a colorful, entertaining and lovable fella. Very much different from Smith’s Doctor on Doctor Who, but in some peculiar and funny ways, similar as well.

Iain De Caestecker starring in Lost River, on filming location in Detroit, MI

There’s always something really sad about seeing buildings like this (with colorful, important history) being let go. So it was quite amazing that apart from Gosling & co making them a big part of a horror/fairy-tale movie, we got to snap a few photos as well.

The Lost River filming locations definitely fall into the category of “it felt like we were in the movie”, which happened with The Walking Dead in Atlanta, GA and a few other films and shows as well.

Iain De Caestecker starring in Lost River, on filming location in Detroit, MI

The other location we managed to find still standing for was this incredible, colourful set of buildings at 17472 Van Dyke (view on Google Maps). Some happy selfies were taken and wrong U-turns were done in front of it, but it was all good – the street was very quiet and we had it all for ourselves for a moment.

Happy blogger standing where Ryan Gosling once stood

Although Lost River didn’t really become a huge hit (especially among the critics), it became quite an important one for the Ryan lovin’ fangirl called Tiia. She even sat in the front row in a Curzon Theatre in London when these two gentlemen came over for a little panel discussion before screening the film for the very first time in the UK.

Detroit on film & other lovely things we saw

We still have a few incredible travel memories from Detroit that we haven’t processed into photos and text, but we’re hoping to roll those out at some point, too. For example, the filming locations for the vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive (Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston) were some of the greatest we’ve ever visited.

Only Lovers Left Alive filming location in Detroit, MI

The Lovers locations included this old theatre, now a car park and a beautiful Victorian house that they have been renovating back to its very old glory in the recent years.

Only Lovers Left Alive filming location in Detroit, MI

Another thing that we won’t be likely to forget very soon is the Heidelberg Project. Several blocks of colorful art, paint, graffiti, toys, cars, installations, shoes, just random crap that put together creates this unreal experience and visual treat.

We have tons of photos from this thing too, but will have to put all those in a separate article, just because the really deserve their own little spot in our blog.

The Heidelberg Project, Detroit, MI

Something we would’ve never guessed to discover in Detroit: the Belle Isle Park. An absolutely stunning park area near the water with a super old Aquarium, miles of beautiful parks and fountains and the perfect spots for viewing Detroit in the sunset.

The old aquarium in Detroit, MI

Quite surprisingly, Detroit, Michigan turned out to be much more than we expected: a vibrant city full of unbelievable things to see, friendly locals and of course, the places our dear Ryan Gosling holds so dear.

Belle Isle Fountain, Detroit, MI

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Tiia / Fangirl Quest
Tiia / Fangirl Quest
Photographer, illustrator, graphic designer, copywriter, marketing assistant. I once traveled across North America in flipflops. I love dogs, ketchup and many inspiring people. Visit my photo portfolio here.


  1. Pat says:

    Omg….loved this article. Just watched the movie I kept saying dann that looks like Detroit. I know that is Detroit. Our whole family was born there. So thank god for Google look what I found. All this great info and the beautiful photos. Thank you guys for the great but sad trip down memory lane.

  2. Ted says:

    I watched Lost River again today for probably the 10th or 11th time and I still enjoy it as much as I did watching it for the first time. I remember searching for filming locations previously and when I did again today I found your website. I love it and the pictures are fantastic, you did an amazing job! Many people have the wrong impression of our city, I was happy to read about your positive experience!

  3. Keith G. says:

    I was blessed to have a role in Ryan’s film. I’m a Detroit area native but my family and I were homeless at the time, moving around, staying where we could. My Ex and I, at that time, were fighting a relentless struggle with a long cycle of addiction that nearly destroyed my family and almost took my life. I was downtown by the Rosa Park’s Transit Center, I was running, flying, kid on my arm and still my family had missed the last bus to the shelter. “Damn it.” Well across Brush Street nearby was a small, art deco style Coney Island, cleverly named “Lucy and Ethel’s” it was open 24/7 in the first floor of the Leland Ramada Hotel. It was after midnight by now. My (now Ex) wife and I, went inside to warm up and get some coffee. There were hours before buses Begin again. I’m stuck. Then, out of the blue, 3 black on black Yukon Denali’s park right out front. In comes Ryan. A few of his crew, 2 cameras, camera men ect. He was so much shorter than I thought! I was asked to have a conversation sitting in a booth with the cab driver seen in the movie driving that green cab. So conversation is what I did. My scene begins at about 68:20. After Billie takes the bus ride home, it shows me and my Ex she’s holding my son, and my daughter the young blond girl in the booth. The cab driver gives her a dollar, I’m standing close, I bow and thank him. I’m the white guy, long hair. Not trying to sound pety but he knew we here having a real hard time, and I was thinking to myself, he didn’t offer to help us, or even pay for my coffee, or ask if the kids were hungry. Or offer us a few bucks. He just left. Shoot took about an hour too, for around 30 seconds of screen time.
    I wanted to add that I now have 5 years sober, a home, a job and the kids are great. My marriage ended soon after, but it was for the better. It was a real hard time in my life but an incredible experience non the less.

    • Hello Keith! Wow! This is probably one of the most interesting comments we’ve received, ever. Thank you so much for sharing with us. I’m really sad to hear they didn’t pay you anything at the time or offer to help you out in any way. I’ve always considered Gosling to be one of the good ones, a laidback, fair dude. But what do we really know of the celebrities’ private life and actual character? Nothing. The fangirl in me thinks that there’s a small chance of him expecting one of the (other) producers to take care of payments and contracts, as directors don’t usually deal with practical stuff on set, but who knows. ANYWAY. The thing that makes me happiest is to hear that you’ve managed to turn your luck around. Well done, sir! This has made my day and started off my 2020 on a happy note.

      PS: I actually thought “aww, this would make a great interview!” – so if you happen to read my reply and would like to share your story with our readers, do send us a message :) info@fangirlquest.com

  4. Keith G. says:

    I’d love talk with you! I have a few things I think you’d like to hear. I’m working a ton this month, so if it’s cool when I get a little free time over the next few days I’ll send an email to you, if that works for you. I’m swamped, it crazy. Hopefully I’ll slow down soon. I’m short on time as we speak but I wanted to add this…

    Now that I’ve read my comment back again, I sounded really ungrateful and pretentious. Being in the film at all is payment enough for any aspiring dreamer, so let me elaborate for the sake of sounding like a D-Bag.

    Lol…. So….

    After the shoot I was waiting at the register with a few cast/crew, having a long, in depth conversation with Ryan and his assistant about our current situation, the decay and abandonment of Detroit and, of course, the plot of his movie. It was, at that time called “How to catch a monster.” As we talked, I was fumbling around in my backpack, my jacket, my pockets trying to collect enough to pay for my two coffees, counting out dimes and quarters. Not a word was said, not that I felt intitled or that he owed me, it was just an awkward moment. I think you nailed it when you said he has someone else who handles those things thats why he barely noticed, he never has to, not his job. Just a strange moment.

    Anyway, I’ll talk to you soon. Thank you for the interest in talking.

    Keith G.

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