Chris Rock, his production crew to film `Head of State' on Sykesville street today

Taping for political movie covers Baltimore area

September 05, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Comedian Chris Rock and a movie production crew are set to arrive in Sykesville today to film scenes for Head of State, a satire on presidential politics.

The movie crews have been spotted at the State House in Annapolis, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore and at a Hampstead school. They plan to hit this town along the banks of a Patapsco River branch before dawn today to prepare to film.

"They need one day to do a scene on our Main Street," said Matthew Candland, town manager. "Actually, it may just be shots of a campaign bus moving up and down the street."

Rock plays a Washington alderman thrust somewhat unwittingly into the presidential campaign. The filmmakers have hinted that they might shoot scenes at Baldwin's, a restaurant in a restored train station, Sykesville officials said.

About 50 production workers are expected to arrive about 3 a.m., with filming set to begin about 8:30 a.m., shortly after rush hour. In a town of less than 4,000, morning rush hour is rarely an event, although commuters have been known to take Main Street to avoid jams on Route 32, said Chief of Police John Williams.

Police have made no plans to shut down the town's main thoroughfare, but Williams has assigned several off-duty officers to traffic maintenance as early as 4 a.m.

Whatever shooting occurs will wrap within the daylight hours, although the filmmakers have alerted town police to possible traffic problems.

"We were told there would be dozens of large trucks with trailers," Candland said. "We have arranged for off-site parking."

A location scout visited Sykesville's downtown a few months ago and pronounced it suitable for the scene, Candland said.

"Everybody is on board with this," Williams said. "The merchants are aware of what to expect. We want to make sure they are able to film the movie with minimal disruption to traffic."

Rock, who is directing the Dreamworks movie, made a pre-production appearance at the town police station and toured Main Street a few weeks ago. The crew chose the church hall at St. Paul's United Methodist Church to set up a cantina. Several downtown restaurants vied for the one-day crowd, but the crew has its own favorite caterer.

Although Williams says he has been a fan of Rock's since the actor appeared in Lethal Weapon 4, he did not ask for an autograph, much to the dismay of his 18-year-old twins.

"He was a very quiet young man," said Williams. "My children were very disappointed that I didn't get his autograph. But I told them that unless he committed a crime and had to sign a citation, I was not about to ask him to sign anything."

Since the movie takes place on the campaign trail throughout the country, crews have chosen various spots throughout Maryland, including North Carroll Middle School. "We are trying to find many locations so it does not look like we are just shooting in Baltimore," said publicist Deborah Wuliger.

Sykesville has had several brief moments in movie spotlights. Its downtown figured prominently in Cry Baby, a John Waters film released in 1990. Eight years ago, a ward at the nearby Springfield Hospital Center was the background for Silent Fall, a thriller starring Richard Dreyfuss and John Lithgow. Ottis L. Roebuck, a hospital orderly, made it into one short scene.

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