Tangier, Va., has message for Hollywood

This Just In...

March 11, 1998|By DAN RODRICKS

Could the folks of Tangier, Va., be serious? They really don't want Paul Newman and Kevin Costner, two of America's most famous leading men, to make a movie on their little island in the Chesapeake Bay? That's what we heard yesterday morning, after word spread that the Tangier Town Council had voted unanimously against allowing Warner Bros. to make "A Message in a Bottle" on the island over the next three months. A town meeting was scheduled for last night, and a good many of the island's 750 residents were expected to attend. They could have voted to overrule the council.

"People in the town are tore up about it," said Wallace Pruitt, who runs Bayview Inn on Tangier with his wife, Shirley. "I don't say much about nothin', but I'm planning on sayin' somethin' about this. ... I tell ya, people are really tore up about it."

The filming of the Newman-Costner movie has been in the planning stages for months. Production on Tangier was due to start next week, but it was conditioned on Town Council approval. According to Mayor Dewey Crockett, Warner Bros. gave council members a chance to review the script of "Message" before they rendered a final decision.

"Each member of the council read the script independently and, without any discussion, the vote [against the movie] was unanimous, 6-0," said Crockett. "The objections were in three categories - language, sex and alcoholic beverages. There was a lot of raunchy language and seven or eight sex scenes. And we have a dry town here.

"We realized this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our little island," Crockett added. "It would have increased revenue and tourism. ... But there are more important things than money, aren't there?"

That's a powerful message the council voted to send. How many little towns say no to Hollywood? In this case, island charter boat captains, operators of ferries, restaurants and motels had expected Warner Bros. to send up to 130 people to the island every day from lodgings along Maryland's Eastern Shore, from Crisfield to Princess Anne to Salisbury. They had been told preproduction work and filming would last until at least the end of May.

As the mayor tells it, the vote against the film goes to the core of what Tangier stands for as a faith-based community that lives off the bay and is host to Christian revivals. As reported recently in Tom Horton's On The Bay column (The Sun, Feb. 27), many islanders made a covenant with God, promising to fish in obedience to all laws and to stop polluting the Chesapeake. "That's a covenant to do better as citizens," said Crockett, adding that approval of the film would have constituted a conflict with Tangier's Christian ideals.

Crockett, who read the script and supported the council's decision, described "A Message in a Bottle" as a romance. Newman plays the father of Costner, an island sailboat builder whose wife dies of cancer. He puts a message about his loss in a bottle and throws it into the waves. It is discovered by a visitor from Chicago - Robin Wright, who played Jenny in "Forrest Gump," is cast in the role - and a love story unfolds.

Good plot, Crockett said, but too much sex, profanity and alcohol.

The mayor said he expected townspeople to support him and the council at last night's meeting, once they were apprised of the script's objectionable contents. Wallace Pruitt disagreed, saying he expected residents to overrule the council.

Hippodrome vs. Harborplace

Jay Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., takes exception to bartender Greg Glessner's recent comment in this column - that the area of the Hippodrome Theater is too bleak to be considered as a new home of the city's major performing arts center.

Brodie: "Regarding Mr. Glessner's negative views ... He described perfectly the scene at Light and Pratt in the 1950s, now the center of the thriving Inner Harbor. Let's focus on what [the Hippodrome project] could be, if we have the creativity and the will to convert the dream into reality."

We're all for dreaming and being positive. The Hippodrome redevelopment is a great idea. But Glessner had a point.

There's nothing in the plan that would create the kind of night life/street life that would benefit the community beyond the theater. As proposed, there's a renovated playhouse with an attached parking garage. It's easy to predict what happens in that arrangement: Theatergoers drive to the Hippodrome, park their vehicles, walk to the theater without ever setting foot on Eutaw Street, get back in their cars and leave.

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