City charms 'Only' cast, crew

July 21, 2008|By Jonathan Pitts | Jonathan Pitts,Sun reporter

The cast and crew of My One and Only, a comedy starring Renee Zellweger, finally had a chance to relax after months of local filming. About 200 members of the production gathered Saturday night for the party that marked the wrap-up of production.

If Baltimoreans, like the earnest geek who managed a date with the prom queen, wonder how they measured up in the eyes of the glitterati, the bash should ease their insecurities.

At the wrap party downtown, the beautiful people were singing their praises.

"I kept hearing I'd have to be careful when I came here," Zellweger said above the convivial din at Lucy's Pub on Eutaw Street. "But I love it. I've made tons of friends. It surprised me how progressive Baltimore is, what a lovely heartbeat it has. It's not at all like what I've heard."

Svelte in a black mini-dress, looking tinier than she does in her on-screen roles, Zellweger mingled with her colleagues, making as much time for the key grips, extras and other "below-the-line" talent as she did for the film's producers, Aaron Ryder (Memento, Donnie Darko) and Norton Herrick, and its director, the British veteran Richard Loncraine.

The down-to-earth star turn fit nicely at a bash that was more relaxation than red carpet, where guests in sundresses, Hawaiian shirts, linen shorts and casual tees schmoozed, reminisced and said their farewells over pints of Guinness and plates of salad.

"It can be sad," said Debbie Dorsey, the director of the Film Office of Baltimore's Department of Promotion and the Arts, who spearheaded logistics during the filmmakers' stay. "People get together and have this intense experience for a few weeks, then go their separate ways."

If My One and Only turns out to be a hit, a great deal of the credit will go to Zellweger, whose lack of pretense was downright Charm City, many said, pervading the production on and off the set.

"She's such a real, giving person," said Logan Lerman, 16, who plays Zellweger's younger son, George, a teen who helps his charming but scatter-witted mother as she tries to find a wealthy husband to support them. "Some actors worry just about their own part. She makes sure she takes care of other performers. That makes everybody better."

Zellweger took Lerman and Mark Rendall, a Canadian actor who plays her other son, on several field trips to help develop a believable air of family unity. The trips included a John Mayer concert at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The star also proved an ambassador to the community. "She must have shaken a thousand people's hands during the weeks she was here," said Herrick, a first-time producer. "If she ran for mayor, I don't know who'd beat her."

It was clear that many at the party saw Baltimore with as much fondness as Zellweger did. Lerman, a veteran of big-ticket films like The Patriot and 3:10 to Yuma, loved the historic feel of Fell's Point, where he stayed in an apartment, grabbing breakfast at Theresa's Diner in the Broadway Market most mornings.

Rendall said he had heard a great deal about Baltimore's high murder rate. Once he settled in at the Peabody Hotel in Mount Vernon, though, he became an inveterate walker, discovering numerous favorite haunts, including the Charles Theatre and Red Emma's coffee shop.

"I found a Baltimore subculture," he said, smiling. "The people there were so sweet and supportive."

Some of the film's stars didn't make the bash: Chris Noth (Sex and the City), Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) and Kevin Bacon, all of whom play past or prospective suitors for Zellweger's character, left town earlier.

Zellweger left the party early, and quietly.

It didn't matter much. Before things could get too raucous, Loncraine stood on a balcony above the main floor, rapped his beer glass, and gave an impromptu speech that pointed to the film's unlikely star.

"Coming to Baltimore has been a strange thing," he said, his voice wavering a little. "You get on a plane, you arrive in a place where you don't know anybody, and you hope you can pull off this complicated thing called a movie. Since I've been here, I've not had a single moment where anybody was anything but friendly and helpful. I'm going to miss you all. And I'm going to miss Baltimore."

jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com

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