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Hollywood East: Day Two

"Don't throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again."
-- "Everything Old Is New Again," lyrics by Peter Allen.


2007 Royersford, Pennsylvania made its acting debut on Wednesday as 1973 Fairfax Borough, Pennsylvania. For those of us who got to be "on the lot" (Main Street between 2nd and 4th) for the "Lovely Bones" shoot, it was a fascinating process to watch!

I managed to infiltrate the studio's inner sanctum (the parking lot behind Lebow's furniture store) for maybe an hour before anyone caught me. It was lunchtime, and extras were milling around, chatting and holding their costume outerwear on their arms -- a "Fairfax" jacket for one, a brown cloth coat for another. From time to time, one ducked into the lunch tent for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. One envious extra coveted the meatball sandwiches reserved for the crew.

Elsewhere in the parking lot was a car with a feature most of ours don't have -- a hollowed-out backseat that held what appeared to be the base for a large camera! It also had an "April 1974" inspection sticker.

I kept my eye out for stars and director Peter Jackson, but didn't see anyone before a security guard spotted me and I had to retire to the outskirts of Tinseltown.

The first scene I watched them shoot involved a red Mustang open convertible careening right around a corner onto Main Street, screeching as it barely evades a car and a truck, and then turning left near the police station. A young girl was supposed to be driving. They repeated this scene, as they did all their scenes, again and again. ("That's a cut for rehearsal!") The stunt driver was a girl named Jen.

A night scene setup included a building bathed in pale light near the Door of Deliverance. Large puffs of steam or smoke billowed up; it was a Heaven sequence. A few of us watched this from the bottom corner of Summer Street -- making sure, as the production assistant cautioned us, to stay out of the light shining down the street toward the scene in which the young girl in the yellow pants her character had been killed in ran up Main Street, calling out in anguish, "Dad! Dad!"

Local news started to show up to cover the Cinderella story of Royersford's appearance in the big time. Channel 3's Dick Standish did a standup near me at 4th and Main, and after his camera was off, joked that he had hoped to get an exclusive interview with star Susan Sarandon (who apparently didn't come to Royersford). Our very own Spring-Ford "Ram Country" newspeople covered the story, saying afterward that they didn't meet anyone famous, but did stand very close to where Peter Jackson was watching footage in a tent.

A few streets away was the production's "Basecamp," including a parking lot full of large trailers near 3rd and Arch behind Victory Park; one woman sat outside a trailer, talking on her cell phone. Another man at the open door of one trailer may have seen me, because then he quickly closed the door.

Meanwhile, the extras ("background talent") gathered at the Royersford United Methodist Church's downstairs fellowship hall, sitting at long tables, sipping bottled water and waiting for their close-up. Along the wall was a long row of bagged costumes on hangers. A sign with the period clothes specified: "No post winter '73." And the extras, like stars and stunt drivers, had to be ready to do as many takes as necessary of their big moment. I saw one woman walk many times down the street with a bag, while a man strolled repeatedly across Main Street with a briefcase.

The incredible detail of the props continued to fascinate me. One I hadn't noticed before was a newsstand for the sale of the "Fairfax County Register." The headline was "Big Blooms at Annual Fairfax Flower Show." (Okay, there was a typo in the subhead: "The Fairfax Flower Show Celebrates it's 15th Anniversary.") Interestingly, when you bend down and squint to read the actual story, it is something about Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's moon mission! I giggled on seeing one woman walk by, glance at the fake papers and have the light dawn: "Oh, you've GOT to be kidding me!" Stores even boasted signs saying "Your BankAmericard Welcome Here" and "Master Charge: The Interbank Card."

Oh, by the way, for those who read my previous post: The bus-schedule sign at the movie "depot" was changed to include entries for this area: Pottstown, Philadelphia, Reading, Virginville (I thought this one was a joke, but I looked it up and it is actually in Berks County), West Chester, Lancaster, Allentown, Jim Thorpe, Valley Forge, Collegeville -- and the last entry, Royersford, which the schedule humorously listed as "CANCELLED!" And the Aquafina bottle is gone from the set. :-) For my scrapbook, someone snapped a photo of me sitting at the depot.

Star Mark Wahlberg had quite a devoted following -- especially among females! -- and rumors were rampant about possible local sightings: Mark at Tom's? Mark at the Epicurean in Phoenixville? Mark strolling around town during a break? Mark driving around in his Escalade? Young girls and older women agreed Mark was "hot!"

Full disclosure: I realized I have never seen a Mark Wahlberg movie! But I definitely plan to now. Two nights in a row, after full and tiring days of filming, he walked up the street to us near Annamarie's, still in costume (brown jacket, green pants), to greet fans and sign autographs. A class act.

I was there especially to see Peter Jackson, whose talent amazed me last year when my family watched the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. I cannot imagine anyone being able to ride herd on shoots as staggeringly large and complicated as those films -- and succeeding so completely. I noted a few other Jackson fans in the crowd, including two men who were engaged in quite a spirited debate about Saruman and Galadriel.

One wonderful thing for Royersford residents watching this shoot was that it turned out to be a huge, friendly block party! People were striking up conversations with total strangers about everything from movies to babies. I couldn't help wishing that, even without Peter Jackson in town, we could have a party like this on Main Street every year.

[My next post will be "a wrap" on this shoot, and I hope to get some photos online this weekend. Hope all you fellow 'night owls' are catching up on your sleep! Thanks for your comments!]

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