Moviemakers: Tickle our imaginations by filming in L.A.

July 28, 2006|By MICHAEL SRAGOW | MICHAEL SRAGOW,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Sure, it would have been a boon to the local film industry and the city economy for the musical Hairspray to be filmed where it's set, in Baltimore. But now that the producers have announced their intention to shoot entirely in Toronto, it shouldn't affect how Baltimore boosters, fans of John Waters generally or that Broadway smash specifically react to the finished movie. After all, the same team that's doing Hairspray mounted the Oscar-winning Chicago on Toronto soundstages - and that movie's critical and popular success is what continues to make movies like Dreamgirls (directed and written by Chicago screenwriter Bill Condon) and Hairspray hot properties, despite the recent commercial failures of The Producers and Rent.

Moviegoing was generally healthier when our filmmakers consistently shot on Hollywood soundstages and depended on their imaginative powers to compel us to suspend our disbelief. Of course, some directors, like Michael Mann in Miami Vice, know how to squeeze the last ounce of flavor from a juicy location. But others, like Ron Howard in The Da Vinci Code, might as well have stayed in Hollywood (or in bed).

And the cult of authenticity can lead to all sorts of fake expertise. When I was reporting on the making of the San Francisco-set 48 HRS. for Rolling Stone, I managed to get on the bus during the filming of its nerve-wracking car/bus chase scene. My editor, a sometime San Franciscan, objected to the scene for mixing up different neighborhoods in the city. Happily, I was able to say, "That's funny, because it was all filmed in Los Angeles."

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

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