Hilary Swank walked the same halls Thursday that hundreds of Jackson County residents have wandered while waiting for a divorce hearing, a jury verdict or a criminal sentencing.
The two-time Academy Award-winning movie star was one of about 160 people at the county courthouse Thursday and today for the filming of “Betty Anne Waters,” a true-story drama about a woman who gets her law degree to defend her wrongfully convicted brother.
Dozens of semitrailers, vans and other vehicles surrounded the building on S. Jackson Street most of Thursday. As soon as the courthouse closed at 6 p.m., crew members poured inside to begin setup.
They remained on site for 12 hours, filming in Circuit Judge Chad Schmucker’s courtroom and the fourth-floor hallway, and were to pack their extensive equipment and leave the building by 6 a.m. today.
Filming was to continue at 6 p.m. today and wrap up at 6 a.m. Saturday, said George Constas, a movie location scout who recently started working in Michigan, where new legislation gives filmmakers generous tax credits.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams Hollywood would bring me back to Michigan,” said Constas, who graduated from Michigan State University.
He said the crew also will shoot footage at the Citizen Patriot building beginning next week, and at Southern Michigan Correctional Facility, which closed in 2007, in Blackman Township.
To arrange for the courthouse work, Constas said he has been talking for weeks with Ric Scheele, county director of fleet and facilities.
County leaders “felt it was a way to showcase the community,” Scheele said.
The county agreed to allow the crews to use the building free of charge, he said. Filmmakers are reimbursing the county for all related expenses, including wages and utilities.
Several county employees were working Thursday night and Friday morning to help crews with building issues and to secure the courthouse.
Mike Price, who works in maintenance, said he almost brushed shoulders with Swank, who stars as Betty Anne Waters, as he unlocked the elevator, which had to be stopped and started for filming purposes.
“I stood right next to her,” he said.
The movie also features Minnie Driver of “Good Will Hunting” and the recent TV show “The Riches” and Sam Rockwell, who had prominent roles in such films as 2007’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and 1999’s “The Green Mile.”
During filming, the fourth floor was inaccessible to people without credentials, but from a basement security camera feed, removed observers could see camera people surrounding Swank as she stood in the hallway.
Over and over again, they performed the same scenes, said Price and Tony Bell, who also works in courthouse maintenance.
Off the set, crew members patronized local businesses, Constas said.
He said he ate at Daryl’s Downtown, 151 W. Michigan Ave., and got his hair cut at Salon Breathe and Spa, 145 S. Mechanic St.
The crews are staying in and are based in Ann Arbor, Constas said.