As movie shoot begins, a short walk in Stonington borough takes all day
Never has a couple strolling down Stonington borough's Water Street drawn quite so much attention.
Well, they were Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, after all.
The movie-star duo began their weeklong filming in the region of "Great Hope Springs" on Wednesday morning - and scads of fans were there to witness it.
Dozens of spectators crammed onto the sidewalks, watching the stand-ins do their work to prepare the shot and waiting for the arrival of the lead actors. Streep and Jones didn't make any grand entrance for this first scene of Stonington filming; they quietly appeared and melded in with the movie crew.
The Oscar winners play a couple struggling with marital difficulties who seek counseling from Steve Carell. (Carell is not scheduled to film here.) Stonington Borough plays the role, as it were, of the film's title town in Maine.
Wednesday's first scene, which lasted just a little more than 30 seconds, consisted of Streep and Jones walking down Water Street, from La Grua's to the corner of Church Street. The spectators couldn't hear what they were saying. The interaction was neither ecstatic nor dramatic; they looked like your average couple chatting, although near the end of the walk, Streep looked into the far distance, pointed, and Jones followed her gaze.
The short segment was shot again. And again. And again.
By the 12th time, the number of spectators had thinned considerably. More than a few people used the word "tedious" when discussing the process. (One person joked that maybe the actors got paid by the mile, considering how much walking they were doing.)
Elizabeth Tobin Brown, who lives on Main Street in the borough, said it was interesting to watch the actors filming, "but I thought it was tedious. Poor guys. I feel bad for them."
Tobin Brown, who watched "Sophie's Choice" to get prepared for the day and was again struck by Streep's talent, said she's not as big a fan as her sister, who is driving from Ohio to see the actress film here.
The neighborhood had been all atwitter about the production, and, Tobin Brown said, "It's fun. It's sort of livening things up, you know?"
As spectators chatted between shots, they traded "Great Hope Springs" stories.
Someone's leaves had been bagged up and dragged off by the movie people - to be used, it's rumored, for a nor'easter that happens in the movie.
Shop owners along Water Street had been told not to put red items in front of their stores because that color doesn't read well on film.
Signs had been altered on various businesses. Noah's restaurant became the Nor'easter Diner. Barraza boutique saw its advertised locations changed from New York and Stonington to Portland and Hope Springs.
Other venues earned complete makeovers. Grand & Water Antiques has morphed into a quaint movie theater showing foreign films.
Closing down Water Street for filming meant different issues for other businesses. Pam Cullis, who is the owner of Zia's apparel, jewelry and accessories shop, found that the Wednesday morning shoot meant that she couldn't open her store at 10 a.m. Instead, it was delayed until a little after noon.
Cullis, who watched the shoot while waiting to reopen, said she hasn't been privy to much "Great Hope Springs" scheduling information.
"It's been frustrating because we really don't know when they're filming again, or what they're filming," she said.
Although a schedule hasn't been released publicly, among the other sites "Great Hope Springs" is supposed to visit are the Econolodge in Mystic and the Inn at Stonington.
On Wednesday morning, the filming routine was pretty much this: "Rolling! Quiet Please!" Streep and Jones strolled. "Cut!" and "Reset!"
Reset meant everyone returned to where they had begun - the guy in plaid on the bicycle returned to his starting point, the cars all reversed back down Water Street. Traffic, by the way, moves north on Water Street in the movie, in the opposite direction from what it really does.
The spectators were given definite instructions by the movie folks. No talking once they hear "Rolling!" No using flash on their cameras. No ringing cell phones; put them on vibrate. Stay on the sidewalk, not in the street.
A group in front of Noah's was eventually directed to move to the opposite side of the street, to get out of the sight line of the actors.
By the sixth take, spectators were moved back an additional 50 feet or so. By about the tenth take, the water truck that had wet down Water Street earlier was called back to do the honors again (sometimes crews wet down roads to improve their look on camera).
Janice Marconi, who lives just outside the borough and was among Wednesday's viewers, said that the production people were here at least three weeks in advance; she recognized on set folks she'd just had casual conversations with earlier, not realizing why they were in town.
One thing that surprised her in watching the filming was the background - how they'd reset the scene. That and the fact that, she said, some "cars probably had bigger roles than some of the extras."
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