If you’ve ever spent time at Ontario International Airport you may have experienced a bit of déjà vu. There’s a simple explanation for this. Chances are you have seen the airport before even it’s the first time you’ve actually set foot in the terminal.
Film permits are regularly issued to TV, movie and commercial productions that require an airport backdrop. Over the years, ONT has been featured in many popular movies, television shows and music videos featuring the likes of Susan Hayward, Jack Lord, Gwyneth Paltrow, Johnny Depp, Bradley Cooper, Ben Affleck, and Kayne West. The airport’s close proximity to Los Angeles, combined with the fact that it is smaller and less hectic than LAX, makes it attractive to production companies looking for both interior and exterior airport locations. There are also some additional benefits to filming at Ontario International Airport that helps account for its popularity.
Ontario International Airport was central to the sixth season of “24”. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) goes to ONT while investigating the assassination of a former president and gets caught up in a terrifying situation involving Russian separatists.
There are some areas of the airport that specifically cater to the needs of the entertainment industry. ONT’s original terminal and the eastern end of Terminal 2 are closed to the public which gives production companies two ideal options for airport backdrops. Not having to work around passengers and airport personnel or worry about disrupting normal operations gives crews more time and freedom when filming scenes. A Boeing 727-200 is also maintained at the airport for interior cabin and cockpit shots. ONT has issued hundreds of film permits over the years.
There are some areas of Ontario International Airport where Hollywood isn’t permitted. For security reasons, cameras are not allowed beyond TSA checkpoints. Filming isn’t allowed on escalators and elevators during regular operational hours to avoid inconveniencing visitors.
Still not sure when you might have seen the interior or exterior of Ontario International Airport on the small screen? The reason it may be difficult to recall the facilities many tv appearances is because it is usually chosen to represent a larger, better-known airport such as LAX, Miami International or Reagan International in D.C.
Here are the four most shocking television moments ever filmed at Ontario International Airport.
The series finale of “Dexter” found everybody’s favorite psychopath with a moral compass attempting to flee Miami for Argentina with his wife Hannah and his son Harrison. The presence of a private investigator who is waiting to apprehend the murderous Hannah complicates the plan. The quick-witted serial killer tells airport security that the P.I. has left a suspicious package in the lounge. After the man is detained and the airport is evacuated, Dexter and his family are able to escape. Some simple camouflaging (palm trees, signage) help transform ONT into Miami International Airport.
Micheal Scott’s (Steve Carell) bumbling tenure as manager of the Scranton, Pennsylvania branch of Dunder Mifflin came to a poignant close at Ontario International Airport. The socially awkward Scott wishes to avoid a round of emotional goodbyes by sneaking out of the office a day earlier than he had previously announced he would be leaving to start a new life in Memphis. While Micheal did manage to share a final, one on one moment with everyone, he didn’t have a chance to say his “goodbyes” to his longtime co-worker Pam (Jenna Fischer). However, they do share a tender farewell in the airport terminal (which inspired millions of “I’ve got something in my eye”, moments among viewers across the globe). Their exchange isn’t heard but the pair embraces after which Pam watches her former bosses plane take to the skies. This fitting denouncement to the complex relationship between Pam and Michael is surprising yet satisfying.
Ontario International Airport was central to the sixth season of “24”. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) goes to ONT while investigating the assassination of a former president and gets caught up in a terrifying situation involving Russian separatists. The group takes 40 hostages with the declared, and ironic, motive of stopping the United States and Russia from signing an anti-terrorism accord. In fact, the event is a diversionary tactic staged to allow other members of the group to seize canisters of deadly nerve gas.
Don Draper is synonymous with New York City and the glory days of Madison Avenue, which is why seeing this chain-smoking, hard-drinking Alpha male in laid-back Cali is so jarring. Season 7 of “Mad Men” opens with Jon Hamm’s character landing in sunny Los Angeles in early 1969, at loose ends in his life and career. Draper’s wife Meghan (Jessica Pare) picks him up outside the airport and whisks him away in an Italian sports car to begin his sun-drenched West Coast exile. Ontario International Airport was the perfect choice to recreate the look of the smaller LAX of the late 20th century. The exterior of ONT (with the aid of a little movie magic) evokes a bygone era when the airline industry was still on the cusp of the growing pains that would spur the incredible expansion of U.S. airports.
Ontario International Airport has played an often uncredited role in creating some of the most unforgettable moments in television history. The next time you see your favorite character walking through an airport terminal, chances are you’ll also catch another one of ONT’s memorable cameos.