The Iowa Classic “Bridges of Madison County” Turns 27 Years Old
It was on June 2nd, 1995 that The Bridges of Madison County opened in theaters nationwide. The film debuted to $10.5 million, good enough to take #2 at the box office behind Casper. The film went on to gross $182 million worldwide, being a slowburn summer hit. The rest is history.
The Bridges of Madison County raked in numerous awards nominations, including one of what seems like 100 nominations for Meryl Streep as Best Actress at the Academy Awards the following year. The film has a special place in the hearts of many Iowans, as it was filmed in various locations throughout the state.
Based on the novel by Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County is set in the mid-1960s and centered around a pair of adult siblings (Meryl Streep and Victor Slezak) returning to their mom's Iowa farmhouse in order to settle her estate after her death. Streep's character, Francesca, an Italian war bride, meets Robert (Eastwood), a National Geographic photojournalist assigned to photograph area bridges.
The film was shot on-location in Iowa. Production lasted 42 days and was filmed in Madison County, Iowa, including the town of Winterset. The Roseman Bridge in Winterset proved to be a recurring image in the film as well. Crews completely restored the residence farm that served as Francesca's house. In 2003, arson damaged the farm, which ceased the opportunity for tours.
In addition, The Dallas County town of Adel also served as the backdrop for several scenes.
Eastwood is famous for his economical style of filmmaking. He's not a patient director as much as he is a fair one. He often only does one or two takes of any given scene before moving on to the next setup. He's notorious for finishing his shoots under budget and ahead of schedule. The Bridges of Madison County was shot in 42 days, 10 days ahead of schedule.
Eastwood also opted to film scenes chronologically, through the lens of the character Francesca. He noted that was important because "we [Streep and Eastwood] were two people getting to know each other, in real time, as actors and the characters." He may make his productions hasty, but he's at least detailed.
Streep was Eastwood's choice for the role from the jump. Waller wanted Isabella Rossellini to be the starring female lead; also on his wish-list for Francesca were Anjelica Huston, Cher, and Susan Sarandon. Steven Spielberg, whose production company Amblin Entertainment, was behind the film, was reluctant to cast Streep. Needless to say, she fit like a glove. She always does.
The Bridges of Madison County is one of the quintessential movies of Iowa. As of this writing, it's available to stream on HBO Max, as are many Clint Eastwood movies, old and new.