Hollywood spotlight shines in county

June 10, 2008|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,Sun reporter

Hollywood set up shop in Baltimore County yesterday, as filming began on the latest movie to call the Baltimore area home.

My One and Only, starring Renee Zellweger as a divorcee seeking a father, preferably a rich one, for her two kids, began its two-month Baltimore shoot in Upperco. For storytelling purposes, the film crew transformed a pair of shuttered businesses - one a former general store, the other a pizza place - into a '50s-era street corner. One side of the road became a gas station, the other a farmhouse, complete with a barn advertising Cayaga Flour, "The Best Bread Flour of the World."

"So far so good; everyone's really happy," said Aaron Ryder, the film's producer. "The first day's really an exciting one, but everyone's talking about the heat. We're hoping it gets a little cooler later in the week."

Amid a late spring heat wave, film crews took over the intersection known locally as Whitehouse, cramming lights, cameras, props and - perhaps most importantly - air conditioning-equipment into the tiny community. And while the filming caused the occasional traffic disruption, few residents seemed to mind. Hey, it's not every day the beautiful people come to town.

"We were very excited to know that people of the caliber of Renee Zellweger and Chris Noth were close by," said Carole D. Quental, principal of Fifth District Elementary, down the road from the film shoot. "That's pretty great. Renee Zellweger, what a lady she is."

The film crew was already hard at work at 7 a.m., when a handful of Baltimore County police arrived to help guide traffic and keep an eye on things.

This being the first day, not many gawkers showed up, said Officer Dwight Randall, "but that will probably change as the word gets out."

It might also help if temperatures get a little cooler.

"It was even worse on Saturday," said Damond Gordon, one of the craft services people charged with keeping everyone fed and hydrated. He was one of a handful of crew personnel who spent the weekend getting things ready for yesterday's shoot.

It was hard not to notice that something was going on, with all the catering trucks, transportation vans and cars crammed into an area that's normally pretty pastoral. Area residents had been told over the past week or so that the film crews were on their way, and most were able to satisfy their curiosity with a simple drive-by.

"People keep driving up and asking, 'Is this for the film shoot?'" said Officer Fred Denker, who had to stop traffic from driving through the area for five or 10 minutes at a time. "There's a lot of interest."

It was also hard not to feel a little unstuck in time. My One and Only is set in the early '50s, which explains the vintage gas pump (with gas priced at 30.7 cents a gallon - a little high for the 1950s, but in the realm of the miraculous today) and signs advertising Sinclair and Cities Service, company names that haven't been seen in these parts for decades. There's even a 1953 Cadillac Eldorado on the set. Picture car coordinator Thom Lombardi has spent months looking for cars made between 1937 and 1953; he's gathered nearly 150 but is always on the lookout for more.

At the nearby White House Nursery, Betty Sparks, mother of owner Ted Sparks, said their customers don't mind admitting they're a little star-struck. Zellweger, who was on set but spent most of the day inside, has a lot of fans in northern Baltimore County.

"They keep asking, 'What's going on?'" Sparks said from behind the nursery's cash register. "They seem excited, especially when you tell them who the main [star] is."

My One and Only, which is based on the memoirs of actor George Hamilton, will be filming in the Baltimore area through July. Shooting is set to continue in Upperco through the week.



See a photo gallery of Renee Zellweger movies at baltimoresun.com/zellweger.

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