Hollywood on the Patapsco? Movies: Major studios find Baltimore a good location for shooting films.

May 17, 1996

COMING SOON TO a neighborhood near you are Clint Eastwood, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Albert Finney and Maggie Smith. They are among the stars of two major movies to be filmed in Baltimore.

"Absolute Power," directed by and starring Mr. Eastwood, and "Washington Square," an adaptation of a Henry James novel starring Mr. Finney, Ms. Smith and Ms. Leigh, will be the latest in a long list of movies produced in Baltimore since Barry Levinson filmed "Diner" here in 1982. But while "Diner" was set in Baltimore, most of the recent films have presented familiar Baltimore scenes as being somewhere else.

In the make-believe world of films, everything is possible. In "Guarding Tess," a 127-year-old Mount Washington home doubled as an Ohio estate. In "Washington Square," Baltimore's Union Square will portray Greenwich Village. In "Absolute Power," Baltimore will be used in lieu of the nation's capital because the permitting process is so complicated there.

The largest film ever shot here was another Barry Levinson love letter to bygone Baltimore, "Avalon." Indeed, much of the city's increasing popularity among film makers is due to Mr. Levinson, who was born here and went to Forest Park High School. His films and his NBC series, "Homicide: Life on the Street," have spread the city's reputation as a good and relatively cheap location for shooting films.

While there is no real reason to call Baltimore Hollywood on the Patapsco, each year has seen more movie-making taking place here. This can be seen in the growing union membership -- one providing a talent base that is important to film makers: They can come to Baltimore with just the big stars and hire most everyone else locally.

Much of Baltimore's success is due to the hard work of the Maryland Film Commission, which acts as a scout and facilitator to film makers. Major studios have found it to be an organization that delivers.

Pub Date: 5/17/96

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