Movie buzz: Evan Almighty blesses Crozet
Charlottesville has seen its share of movie stars– some live here while others are frequently rumored to be considering living here– and it has served as a location for a number of movies, although admittedly you'd have to go back to the '90s to find a major studio release.
Enter Bruce Almighty 2, more properly known as Evan Almighty, the sequel to the Jim Carrey/Morgan Freeman/Jennifer Anniston flick that grossed $485 million worldwide.
"This is definitely the largest project for Charlottesville," says city director of communications Ric Barrick, "and one of the largest in Virginia. It's a major investment for the city and county." He expects it to generate between $10 and $30 million in revenues to local businesses.
Evan Almighty stars Freeman and 40-Year-Old Virgin Steve Carell, who gets a big raise from the $500,000 he earned for Virgin to at least 10 times that in Evan, according to Variety. The industry newspaper also reports shooting will be scheduled around Carell's TV show, The Office.
Carrey and Anniston are not in the sequel, but a "well-known actress" who hasn't quite been signed will be, says Barrick.
Carell, who played a news anchor in Bruce, is charged with building an ark in anticipation of a Hurricane Katrina-like flood. His character has been elected to Congress, and he moves into a partially completed subdivision outside Washington.
Crozet will sub for the DC suburb, and the first production wave has already hit Old Trail Village, where carpenters will whip up some faux under-construction houses– and the 400-foot ark.
Old Trail developer Justin Beights confesses he felt some trepidation when Universal Studios first approached them about using the real-life partially completed subdivision. "We decided not to do it several times but then talked ourselves into doing it," he says.
Marketing Old Trail and providing an economic boost to Crozet "drove us to make the decision," says Beights, even knowing, "There will be times when we'll have to stop everything."
He did put his foot down when Universal wanted to film at Upper Ballard, where a handful of residents are already occupying 20 completed townhouses and four single-family homes.
Instead, the set will go up between two roundabouts at Old Trail's future town center. And Beights predicts that owners of the completed townhouses will be renting them out to the studio. "They've been renting everything they can find," he says.
With between 175-200 people coming in, local hotels can expect steady business from mid-March through mid-June. Movie folk will stay at the Omni, Boar's Head, Holiday Inn, and other area hotels, as well as rent houses, according to Barrick.
"Right now the focus is to get administrative space on the Downtown Mall for 50 people–" the producers, art, production and accounting departments, says Barrick, but he declines to say exactly where Evan's offices will set up.
And a reliable source spills that Universal has rented space in Comdial to be used for interior sets.
Crozet will not be the only Albemarle location under the lights. Universal has chosen one Charlottesville location and is considering another. And when streets must be shut down, the city and studio will try to pick dates that are the least disruptive– although Sunday is not an option for the film's unions, says Barrick.
"The most important emphasis is not disrupting city services, citizens, and safety concerns," he maintains.
Going Hollywood will not directly benefit city coffers. "We don't require permits," explains Barrick, although there will be compensation for fire and police services. "But the city indirectly benefits in the long run," he says, and the springtime shoot will catch the area looking its most fetching.
Barrick credits the Virginia Film Office for steering such a major production here, but there's another connection: Director/producer Tom Shadyac is a UVA alum.
Shadyac, a Falls Church native, majored in government and graduated from UVA in 1981. He headed to Los Angeles in 1983 at age 23, where he became the youngest Bob Hope staff joke writer ever, according to the Internet Movie Data Base. He earned a master's degree in film from UCLA in 1989.
Shadyac's big break also nicely coincided with Jim Carrey's big debut on the silver screen. Shadyac wrote and directed Ace Ventura, Pet Detective in 1994, and he hired Carrey to star in what was his first major movie role. Carrey has continued to work in Shadyac films like Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty. Even without Carrey, Shadyac has continued to turn out successful comedies like The Nutty Professor and Patch Adams.
Another local connection steering Evan here: location director Tom Trigo lives in Crozet.
Those familiar with the project caution that the deal isn't guaranteed as far as how much of the movie will be shot here. But if all goes well, locals could end up as extras, and Evan Almighty could be Crozet's break-out role.
Universal Studios was looking for a partially built subdivision like Old Trail.
PHOTO BY HOOK STAFF
A temporary shop has already gone up for building the Evan Almighty set at Old Trail in Crozet, which includes a 400-foot ark.
PHOTO BY HOOK STAFF