Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Living in a movie set: "The Judge"

Reflections of a Shelburne Falls resident

If you’ve lived in Shelburne Falls more than 18 months, you can’t walk down Bridge Street without a memory or two of a movie star sighting or extras waiting day after day on the sidewalks for “Action!”

Everyone has stories about the filming here of “Labor Day” in 2012 and “The Judge” in 2013. The main place my life intersected with Hollywood was Baker’s Pharmacy. My husband was out of his blood pressure medication, so I headed to the drugstore.

Someone in a crowd of people in front of Keystone Market next door called my name (trying to warn me the pharmacy was off-limits), but I was in a rush. The muscular man who’d been keeping the riffraff off active filming sites for “Labor Day” was down the sidewalk a bit with his back to me, so I figured filming was happening elsewhere. I slipped inside the pharmacy. Four people with ’80s big hair and bright clothing sitting on swivel stools at the old-fashioned ice cream counter saw me and told me the “pharmacist” in the white lab coat behind the counter could help me. That caused them to laugh uproariously. To my left, a man I was later told was director Jason Reitman peered into a large camera heading on a track straight for me. The real pharmacist, Sid Anderson, appeared behind me and whispered, “Can I help you?” What came out of my confused brain was, “I’m just not sure if this is a pharmacy or a movie set.” Being the nice man he is, he quickly refilled the prescription. As I headed out, I held it above my head and yelled back at my friends by Keystone — “Score!”

I also was within hug range of an actor while he was filming “The Judge” here in 2013, when I was running the after-school program at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School.
One Friday, teachers brought the children to the school cafeteria for an unscheduled assembly.


Once there, a nondescript man in a straw hat, olive green T-shirt and pants, and Timberlands strode through a back door, waved, and sat on the steps leading up to the school stage. It was Robert Downey Jr., looking quite different without the shining white shirt and large sunglasses he wore while filming. Then they had the best question-and-answer session a kid could ask for on a Friday afternoon:

Child: “Could you come and make the next ‘Iron Man’ movie right here?”

Downey: “Yes, except we always blow up wherever we’re filming.” (Students cheered.)

Child: “I saw all three ‘Iron Man’ movies. Did you?”

Downey: “There were three ‘Iron Man’ movies?

Child: “How did you get so famous?”

Downey: “I don’t think I should answer that ...” A few of the over-30 staffers smiled. “You should do what you are passionate about and then you’ll succeed,” he said. Fame isn’t what appeals to him.
Child: “Where’s your sandwich?” (an “Iron Man” reference).

Downey: “Once you’ve made a few successful movies like I have, you’ll never have to make a sandwich again. Actually, I like to make sandwiches.”

Child: “What’s your favorite ice cream?” 

Downey: “Now that’s the best question so far! Mint chocolate chip.”

The actor then invited each class to have a serious picture and a silly picture taken sitting on the stage. “What should we say?” he asked first-graders snuggled around him. “Chicken nuggets!” one child responded. “Chicken nuggets!” they all screamed for the camera. “Yum,” a first-grade girl said. “Nice improvisation there!” Downey said to her.

He sat for pictures with children yelling “Tacos are awesome,” one with third-graders looking “very educated” (Downey raised his head and put his fist to his chin, “Thinker” style), another with fourth-graders doing an Ozzy Osbourne signal with pinkies and pointer fingers up, and one with sixth-graders posing as velociraptors. Then he sat on the stage with the adults and asked the students how the teachers should pose. Tons of hands went up, and he chose a third-grader in Mrs. Page’s class. The girl froze, a possum in the headlights. “Uh, ears,” she muttered. “Ears!” Downey responded joyfully. “It doesn’t get any better than this!” So he and the teachers were immortalized with their hands over their ears.
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Before leaving, Downey high-fived all the children and shook teachers’ hands. With a film employee leading Downey toward the door, a BSE staff member handed him an early spring green Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School T-shirt. Downey dropped his jaw, as if it was the best present he’d ever received, and immediately pulled it over his olive shirt. Then he said “Bye!” gave a twirl, blew a kiss, and disappeared out the back door.

The filming inconvenienced many, induced rapture for others, but no one said Downey was anything but kind to residents here, pausing over and over again to autograph shirts and joke around with gawkers during filming breaks.

Two years later, Shelburne Falls has returned to normal. Yet, metal stars in front of Greenfield Savings Bank, Shelburne Town Hall, Keystone, and the pharmacy commemorate filming sites for both Labor Day and The Judge. Ask the locals about them. They’ll have a story to tell.

via The Gazette
by Jacqueline Walsh, 11.15.15






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5 comments:

Regina Caschetto said...

Great story. Wonderful to hear that Mr. Downey is a genuinely nice man.
Regina

Stephanie J said...

I'm ashamed to say that I still haven't seen this movie. Soon.

thereel said...

Stephanie,
I've been seeing it listed on Comcast On Demand recently.

Stephanie J said...

Awesome. Thanks!

thereel said...

:o)

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