We're rolling: Hollywood movie projects are coming back to town after drying up last year

Category: Timeline News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: January 14, 2002 | Publication: The Gazette (Montreal) | Author: BRENDAN KELLY
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After abandoning Montreal for the last six months of 2001, Hollywood film-makers are finally returning to town and, with five major Tinseltown shoots already confirmed, it looks to be a boom year for U.S. filming here.

George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman are all either already in town or on their way to spend part of the winter working here.

All this action comes after a rocky year for filming in Montreal.

Hollywood shooting in town dipped big-time thanks to the threat of actors strikes on both sides of the border and the fallout from the September terrorist attacks in the United States. Final figures are not available, but it is estimated that film-makers spent around $235 million here in 2001. That was down $100 million from a year earlier.

"I'm quite confident we'll get back those millions in 2002," Montreal film commissioner Andre Lafond said. "For security reasons, the Hollywood studios don't want to shoot outside North America, so all these movies that were going to shoot in Germany or Australia will now be produced in North America. And we should get some of those productions."

Clooney has been in and out of town for the past couple of months preparing his directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, one of the hotter projects in the movie world right now. Clooney was here for four days of shooting in mid-December, but the production on the flick begins in earnest tomorrow and will continue for the next two months.

Confessions stars Clooney, Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts. There are also plans to have Clooney's Ocean's Eleven co-stars Matt Damon and Brad Pitt drop into town to shoot cameos for Confessions.

Written by Charlie Kaufman, who also wrote Being John Malkovich, the quirky comedy is based on the wacky autobiography of Gong Show host Chuck Barris. The game-show impresario claimed in the book that his TV job was a front for his real gig as a government assassin. Rockwell - who played the villain in Charlie's Angels - plays Barris. Clooney plays the CIA agent who recruits Barris.

Shooting Today

Beyond Borders, which stars Jolie, also shot for a couple of days in December here and resumes shooting today. It is directed by Martin Campbell, a New Zealand-born film-maker whose best-known films are Vertical Limit and Goldeneye.

The cast also includes British actor Clive Owen (Croupier), Teri Polo (Meet the Parents), Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show) and Linus Roache (Wings of the Dove). Produced by Mandalay Pictures and to be released by Paramount in North America, it is a drama about the worldwide refugee problem in which Jolie plays an American in London who falls in love with a crusading doctor (Owen).

Thornton, who is married to Jolie, will be here to shoot Levity, which begins production on Jan. 22. It also stars Morgan Freeman, Holly Hunter and Kirsten Dunst and is the first feature directed by screenwriter Ed Solomon (Charlie's Angels, Men in Black). Levity tells the story of an ex-con (Thornton) who is released from prison after serving 19 years for murder and tries to make amends for his past mistakes.

In mid-March, Hopkins and Kidman will be arriving to co-star in Human Stain, based on the acclaimed Philip Roth novel. It will directed by Robert Benton, who wrote Bonnie and Clyde and directed Kramer vs. Kramer and Nobody's Fool.

In April, the city will be host for Timeline, a big-budget time-traveling thriller from producer/director Richard Donner (the Lethal Weapon flicks) and based on the novel by Michael Crichton. The Paramount Pictures production, much of which is set in the 14th century, stars Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious) and Scot Gerard Butler (Dracula 2000).

Copyright 2002 Southam Inc.