Categories Movies

Landmark backdrop for movie shoot

Actress Hilary Swank’s film shoot in Howell on Saturday hardly captured the excitement of Steve McQueen’s car chase scene in “Bullitt,” but still drew some 45 people to the set of “Betty Anne Waters.”

Swank plays the title role in the film, which tells the true story of a woman who puts herself through law school and eventually represents her brother, later found to be wrongfully convicted of murder.

The two-time Academy Award winner wore a green coat and black slacks, walked from west to east on State Street, up the side staircase of the historical Livingston County Courthouse and inside — five times.

That was about it.

Contrary to popular belief, the courthouse will appear as a police station, and not a courthouse, in the film.

The courthouse was set up as the Ayer Town Hall and Police Department in Ayer, Mass., the town near Boston depicted in the film.

The scene shows Swank’s Waters entering the station. Interior shots for the station were shot at a Detroit Police Department precinct.

Saturday marked the last day of shooting for the film, expected to be released this year.

Cathy Thomas, a locations manger for production company Innocence Productions Inc., said the exterior of the Detroit precinct looked too big for the shot, and that producers felt the Howell courthouse had a unique character.

“This looks like a small-town police station. They just thought it was quite beautiful,” Thomas said outside the courthouse.

“It was just such an interesting, great-looking building,” she added.

A second, interior scene was shot in an apartment between Bumble Beads, 114 N. State St., and the office of local attorney Don Lewis, 118 State St. Swank was whisked into the building by director Tony Goldwyn.

Goldwyn is perhaps best known for his role as actor Patrick Swayze’s nemesis in the 1990 film “Ghost.”

Also Saturday, a scene was shot at a lakefront home in the Pinckney area. The film began shooting in February, and also filmed in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Jackson, Chelsea, Dexter and Detroit.

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The production is taking advantage of Michigan’s film incentive, which provides a rebate of up to 42 percent of a film’s costs while filming in the state.

Thomas said much of the crew and food and other vendors were Michigan-based, but didn’t have figures.

Howell resident and actor Peter Carey, who is slated appear in a scene shot at the Wayne County Building in Detroit, stopped by the set Saturday to say farewell to the cast and crew.

Carey will appear as a reporter at the end of the film interviewing Swank’s Waters, and her brother in the film.

He’s appeared in five films, including three shot since the state’s film incentive was enacted last year. He said working with fellow Michiganders has been a highlight of his career.

“When you know people on the set, it’s a much more comfortable situation for you because you feel at home,” Carey said.

Westland resident Bob Middendorff formed his own niche business, Stubz Enterprises LLC, as a direct result of the film incentive program. He was laid off as a driver for Kroger in March 2008, one month before the film incentive took effect.

He’s driven trucks containing wardrobe and other goods to four film sets since the incentive began. Middendorff bought two cars at an auction and designed them as police cars for the movie.

“It’s fun and it makes a little bit of profit,” he said.

“Betty Anne Waters” is the latest of several film productions in Livingston County in recent months. Movie crews shot footage for the stoner comedy “High School,” the family film “Horse Crazy” and the dark comedy “Youth in Revolt” in Livingston County since last summer.