The idea to film Tennessee Williams’s play The Night of the Iguana in Puerto Vallarta  was born in the bar of the Beverly Hills Hotel. In mid-1963, director John Huston, whose movies had earned a raft of Academy Awards, met with Guillermo Wulff, a Mexican architect and engineer. For the film’s location Wulff proposed Mismaloya , an isolated cove south of Puerto Vallarta.
On leased land, Wulff would build the movie set and cottages for staff housing, which he, Huston, and producer Ray Stark would later sell for a profit as tourist accommodations.
Most directors would have been scared away by the Mismaloya jungle, where they would find no roads, phones, or electricity. But, according to Alex Masden, one of Huston’s biographers, Huston loved Mismaloya: “To me, Night of the Iguana was a picnic, a gathering of friends, a real vacation.”
A “gathering of friends,” indeed. The script required most of the cast to be dissolute, mentally ill, or both: a blonde nymphet tries to seduce an alcoholic defrocked minister while his dead friend’s love-starved, hard-drinking widow keeps a clutch of vulturous biddies from destroying his last bit of self-respect — all while an iguana roped to a post passively awaits its slaughter.
Huston’s casting was perfect. The actors simply played themselves. Richard Burton (the minister) came supplied with plenty of booze. Burton’s lover, Elizabeth Taylor, who was not part of the cast and still married to singer Eddie Fisher, accompanied him. Sue Lyon (the nymphet) came with her lovesick boyfriend, whose wife was rooming with Sue’s mother; Ava Gardner (the widow) became the toast of Puerto Vallarta while romping with her local beach paramour; Tennessee Williams, who was advising the director, came with his lover Freddy; while Deborah Kerr, who acted the only prim lead role, jokingly complained that she was the only one not having an affair.
With so many mercurial personalities isolated together in Mismaloya, the international press flew to Puerto Vallarta  in droves to record the expected fireworks. Huston gave each of the six stars, as well as Elizabeth Taylor, a velvet-lined case containing a gold Derringer with five bullets, each engraved with the names of the others. Unexpectedly, and partly because of Huston’s considerable charm, none of the bullets was used. Bored by the lack of major explosions, the press corps discovered Puerto Vallarta instead.
As Huston explained later to writer Lawrence Grobel: “That was the beginning of its popularity, which was a mixed blessing.” Huston nevertheless returned to the area and built a home on the Bay of Banderas , where he lived the last 11 years of his life. Burton and Taylor bought houses in what is now Gringo Gulch , got married, and also stayed for years.
Although his Mismaloya  tourist accommodations scheme never panned out, Guillermo Wulff became wealthy building for the rich and famous many of the houses and condominiums that now dot Puerto Vallarta’s jungly hillsides and golden beaches.