Hollywood has once again found its way to the Valley, with two productions calling “Action!” on the streets and in the businesses of Montague and Orange. This time, though, the area is serving as more than just a beautiful rural backdrop, with community members playing a larger role.
Through January, Hulu is expected to film scenes of its “Castle Rock” online series, reportedly set in the universe of Stephen King’s imagination, with Orange standing in for the fictional town featured in several of the author’s books.
Locals have also got their first glimpses of veteran actor Sam Elliott in and around Greenfield as he stars in the intriguingly titled film, “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot.” That movie has now started filming in locations around Turners Falls. Elliott’s co-star, Aidan Turner, is also causing quite a buzz of his own, if the emails, phone calls and website comments to the Recorder are anything to go by. Turner, most widely seen as the dwarf Kili in the “Hobbit” movies, has a growing and dedicated fanbase from his role as Poldark, from the BBC show of the same name shown on PBS in the U.S.
The area has had its brushes with fame before, most recently with big-name actors Robert Downey Jr. and Kate Winslet filming movies — “The Judge” and “Labor Day,” respectively — in and around Shelburne Falls. These two new productions differentiate themselves from those two movies in a few ways, and not just because it’s swinging the spotlight away from that picturesque Hilltown village.
The level of community engagement seems much higher now, with “Castle Rock” drawing nearly 1,700 people to a casting call for extras and some waiting for hours just to be seen. Casting director Julie Knowlton said that the success of such an event is based on the number of people and their overall enthusiasm and passion. She said the turnout in Orange was huge.
Plenty of potential extras turned out for the Hitler-Bigfoot movie a few weeks later, with many drawn in as much by the opportunity as by an interest in the film’s title — at once plainly worded and yet mysterious.
“It’s exciting,” said Greenfield’s Holly Crowell. “I’m curious to see what it’s all about.”
“If Sam Elliott’s involved,” Crowell’s neighbor Carolyn Caron said, “it has to be a good script.”
That script has brought in some heavy-hitters working behind the scenes including well-respected writer-director John Sayles taking on producer duties. And for those worrying just how good Bigfoot will look — or how the local area will fill in for 1940s Germany — the movie is in good hands. With special effects teams from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” as well as creature effects masters from “Pacific Rim” and “Hellboy” on board, the production certainly has its bona fides.
The biggest difference from previous Hollywood invasions, however, comes in having Montague native Robert Krzykowski having written the film and now directing it in his hometown. That adds a greater rooting interest in the area for the film to turn out to be something of which to be proud.
As the area pitches in — from Indoor Action being turned into a biohazard zone during a night shoot to the Guiding Star Grange hosting the caterers for the film — we hope that residents less involved with either production keep in good spirits as they deal with additional noise as well as delays and detours in their traffic patterns.
We also hope that the Valley, often known for a slower, quieter way of life, is enjoying a bit of an energy boost this summer thanks to the productions, something that’ll continue until we hear, “That’s a wrap!”