WATCH THE TRAILER — Critically acclaimed “Red Rocket” filmed locally when no one noticed

Published 12:30 am Saturday, December 25, 2021

Judy Chao, who runs Donut Hole at 3324 Pure Atlantic Road in Groves, was more than happy to allow “Red Rocket” to film in and around her store.

But, before she knew she was dealing with a movie that’s already become critically acclaimed, she made sure to lay down the ground rules.

“They would finish at 11 o’clock at night,” she said. “I said everything shuts down at (midnight) because I start at 12:30 a.m. They agreed.”

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The store that borders Groves and Port Arthur can be prominently seen in the trailer for “Red Rocket;” which stars former MTV VJ Simon Rex and newcomer Suzanna Son, and debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in July, during and after which it won multiple awards.

But also during the trailer, there’s a fight scene that occurs in the Donut Hole parking lot with Total clearly shown in the background.

“People would drive by and call the police,” Chao said. And while the police always responded, they made sure to let concerned residents know it was part of a film.

The crew for the film, which portrays a “washed-up” adult film star trying to restart a normal life, stayed 10-12 days at the Donut Hole.

“It was a good time,” Chao said. “It was all very, very, very awesome.”

Chao said she would occasionally close the doors at 11 a.m. — one hour before closing time — so the crew could utilize the 12 hours they had before she had to start preparing for business.

But meeting the actors was worth any inconvenience.

“When his makeup was on to look old, he looked old,” she said of Rex. “When the makeup was to look young, he looked young. And the girl (Son), they made up so perfect.”

It was late October 2020. And while the country was shut down for a pandemic, secretly Southeast Texas became part of a film that’s now won several awards and is considered “critically acclaimed.”

Building the Rocket

“Red Rocket” was predominantly filmed in Texas City, Galveston and the area in and around Port Arthur. The film revolves around Rex’s character moving back home to Texas City and meeting the young “Strawberry” (Son), who works in a donut shop. Although those in Southeast Texas won’t be able to see it until later this month or early next month when it’s released on Vudu, a rent/purchase streaming app. The $1 million budget film debuted in theatres on Dec. 10, but only in limited locations.

Still, director Sean Baker has explained how the movie may have created a new actress from a Port Arthur native who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

In an article with The Observer, Baker says, “Brittany Rodriguez, who plays June in the film, I saw her walking her Chihuahua around the block when I was exploring an area of Port Arthur, Texas with my producer. We saw her and we thought she looked interesting. It was kind of creepy, obviously, two white dudes driving up and rolling down the window and saying with our masks on, ‘Can you come over here? We want to tell you about something.’ We pitched her and she looked at us and said, ‘I’m an artist, too, and this sounds right up my alley.’ She’s so good that I started fleshing out the June character more and more.”

A film-friendly city

Even after the filming of “Red Rocket” took place, Port Arthur officially became a place to attract filmmakers.

In October, Gov. Greg Abbot declared Port Arthur a “Film Friendly City” and added it to the list of other Texas destinations that were to be considered ideal for filmmakers.

“I congratulate the City of Port Arthur on earning the Film Friendly Texas designation and joining more than 160 other Texas communities who have received this recognition,” Abbott said in a written statement.

And Darragh Doiron with the Port Arthur’s Convention and Visitors Bureau couldn’t agree more.

“We want more of that,” she said. “We are anxious to see our coastal beauty be the star of the next movie.”


While wildly liked by national critics, “Red Rocket” is rated R and not considered suitable for children.

Click here to watch the trailer.