Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lights, Cameras ... Belmont: 'The Judge' Coming to the Center

"The Judge" with Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duval propose to use the former Municipal Light Building for two days in July.

It may be the long-closed Municipal Light Department building to Belmont residents – although each month someone attempts to pay their electric bill there – but to a Hollywood movie team, the town-owned structure will be a prime location to shot a big-time film come this July.
Those are the proposed plans from the production company filming "The Judge," a 2014 release starring Robert Downey Jr. (who is also producing) and Robert Duval after the town received a "letter of intent" to film for two days in July, according to Kevin Looney, the town's Building Services manager.
Part of the agreement is for daytime filming as well as finding space for 30 trailers and trucks required by the crew and cast. 
It will now be up to the Belmont Board of Selectmen whether to approve the letter and the rental agreement with the producers, said Looney.
According to Looney, the producers will be doing extensive interior work in preparation to filming which will require a building permit from the town's Office of Community Development. 
"They said they would put the building's interior back to its original condition but I told them not to bother," said Looney of the bare-boned inside.
Once any agreement is approved, the Town Administrator's office will inform and coordinate with other town departments, such as police and public works, to assist in the filming. 
Belmont's former Municipal Light Building, adjacent to the Police Station and across from Belmont's Town Hall, will become a court house in the film. 
If there is a fly in the ointment for the town, it's the MBTA commuter rail line that runs next to the building.
"They told me that it's usually a death sentence when production managers see tracks," said Looney. "But they appeared ready to deal with that."  
"The Judge" is a co-production of Team Downey – the first film for the company created by Downey and his wife Susan, a well-known film producer ("Gothika" and the "Sherlock Holmes" series) – and the film's director David Dobkin’s Big Kid Pictures.
According to imdb.com, the film's story line concerns a successful lawyer (Downey) who returning to his hometown for his mother's funeral discovers that his estranged father, the town's judge (Duval), is suspected of murder.
The "comedy-drama" also stars Vera Farmiga (Clooney's love interest in "Up in the Air" as well as Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon’s lover in "The Departed"), as well as Vincent D'Onofrio (of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" fame who'll play Downey's brother) and "Sling Blade"'s Billy Bob Thornton.
Rumors had Jack Nicholson in the judge's role but he back out. 
In a feature article in the April issue of GQ magazine, Chris Heath wrote that Downey
... hopes to start shooting the first Team Downey film in June, a movie called The Judge in which he will play the lawyer son of a superior-court judge. Its "beautiful story" was thought up by David Dobkin, director of Wedding Crashers, inspired by something in his own life.
"It's funny as hell, but speaking of emo, it's just openly weeping reading the script. I don't know how I'm going to get through it. It's me and Robert Duvall, a father and son."
About a month ago, Looney was asked by a production assistant to look inside the town's Police Station but it was deemed too small but the abutting Light Department passed the initial test for having enough space for the production.
A day later, the location manager came by and though it was OK, said Looney. Then the next day the location manager's boss entered the building and said they would be back. 
And they did come back, this time with director Dobkin who is best know for helming "Wedding Crashers" in 2005 and "Fred Claus" in 2007. 
Then a week later, a bus come to town and Looney let about 30 technical and lighting people into the building. 
"They were looking around saying, 'This is where the lights can go,' as others were taking measurements," said Looney.
Also on that day came cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, Steven Spielberg's favorite who won Academy Awards for "Savings Private Ryan" and "Schindler's List." 
"He was a very interesting guy," said Looney; the cinematographer for "Lincoln" brought two-dozen donuts for everyone.
"I told him the police station was next door," said Looney, who added that Kaminski had "a really great sense of humor."
The last big movie to film in Belmont was the Dane Cook vehicle, "My Best Friend's Girl," in which hoards of Belmont High students trudged out in the early morning hours to get a glimpse of the production and have photos taken with a very-good natured Arlington-native Cook.
Despite the popularity of Massachusetts as being a backdrop to many movies – Sandra Bullock's "The Proposal" was filmed in Gloucester and Rockport even though the action was taking place in Alaska – Belmont has missed out on this trend.
Only "The Thomas Crown Affair" (at Belmont Country Club), "The Cardinal" (a trolley car scene) and PBS's American Playhouse's "Fourth of July and other Disasters" (with an 18-year-old Matt Dillon) were filmed in town.