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Michigan, Ohio each claim a key role in ‘The Ides of March’

BY JULIE HINDS

DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

25 Sept 2011

It’s nearly two months until Michigan faces Ohio State in the great college football rivalry. But another friendly competition is brewing between the states.

This time, it’s for cinematic bragging rights.

“The Ides of March,” a drama starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling, opens Oct. 7. Already being talked about as a possible awards contender, it focuses on a rising young campaign press secretary (Gosling) who becomes enmeshed in a scandal that could impact his candidate’s run for the Oval Office.
Filming took place for about a month in Ohio (mostly in Cincinnati and Oxford and briefly in nearby northern Kentucky) and slightly longer in Michigan. So the two primary states have many touchdowns, er, locations in the movie.

Producer and co-screenwriter Grant Heslov had a great experience in Michigan. “It was a really good place to shoot,” he says of being here in March and April. But he liked Ohio a lot, too, and diplomatically considers the contest between the states a tie.

Well, this is a movie about politics.

The story line gives the Buckeye State a home field advantage. “Ides” is set in Ohio during a crucial presidential primary, which meant, among other things, that a University of Michigan auditorium had to stand in for Kent State University in one scene.

Our toll-road neighbor to the south also has stronger ties to the director, the producer, the co-screenwriter and the actor cast as Democratic candidate Gov. Mike Morris.
Clooney — who did all four jobs — grew up near Cincinnati, where he’s embraced as a hometown hero. His dapper dad, Nick Clooney, who spent many years as a Cincinnati TV news anchor and newspaper columnist, is also a local favorite.

But to even the score, you only have to look at Michigan’s contributions to “Ides” in terms of locations, cast, crew and hospitality — not to mention financial help.

The movie received a $1.2-million Ohio motion picture tax credit, according to the Ohio Film Office. That compares to the nearly $5 million in Michigan film incentives it was approved for on about $12.5 million in expected spending.

Battle over incentives

When the production arrived in metro Detroit, a political battle was raging — a real one.
While “Ides” was shooting in the Motor City and Ann Arbor in March and early April, the state’s filmmaking community was lobbying against Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to downsize the incentives program with a $25-million annual cap, an initiative that became law in the budget for fiscal 2012.
Clooney and the other principals didn’t get involved in the issue, focusing their time and effort on keeping “Ides” moving forward smoothly. Local participants say it was one of the best-run productions they encountered during the three-year life span of the incentives.

“There was no drama. It was very pleasant,” says Kathy Mooney of Pound & Mooney Casting in Madison Heights, which worked on the project.

Mooney heard that Clooney was quite pleased with the actors from the area. Danny Mooney (no relation), a young Ann Arbor director who just helmed “AWOL” with Liam Hemsworth of “The Hunger Games,” and Yuriy Sardarov, a U-M theater graduate living in Ann Arbor who’ll appear next in Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” landed parts as Morris campaign workers.

Another actor, Talia Akiva of Ann Arbor, appears briefly as Clooney’s daughter.

Several other local faces can be spotted in the movie, including Detroit musician Bob Mervak, who can be seen singing “We’ll Meet Again” in a sequence done at Cliff Bell’s, a Detroit jazz club.
Mervak, who spent three days on the set, played a rented $70,000-range Steinway for a scene involving Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Gosling’s boss on the campaign, and Marisa Tomei, who’s a reporter.

He describes Clooney’s directing style as “pretty chill” and says the director wanted everything subdued for the performance. At one point, as they talked music, Clooney modestly dropped a name. “He said, ‘I don’t know if you’re familiar with my aunt, Rosemary Clooney,’ ” Mervak recalls.

Although Ohio gets plenty of screen time for exteriors, Michigan could have the edge in interior scenes. Detroit and Ann Arbor both played big roles in providing locations for the speeches, rallies and office meetings in the political drama.

Besides Cliff Bell’s, the production filmed in downtown Detroit at the Colony Club, the Inside Detroit welcome center on Woodward and the Gem Theatre’s kitchen, among other sites.
There also were days spent shooting in Detroit suburbs and Ann Arbor, where U-M buildings were home to several Morris events.

Detroit’s appeal

By all accounts, Clooney and the cast and crew got a friendly but respectful welcome during their Michigan stay. Crowd control wasn’t a huge issue, even at places like U-M’s Michigan League, which remained an open building during filming. Although a shooting schedule for the Michigan stops was leaked on the Web, the sets in Ann Arbor and metro Detroit weren’t inundated with press or bystanders, which helped keep things running efficiently.

This is the third film Clooney has worked on in metro Detroit — he filmed scenes here for 1998′s “Out of Sight” and 2009′s “Up in the Air.” He didn’t talk to local media during filming of “Ides,” but those who met him say he was charming and down-to-earth.

“Clooney is a very thoughtful and warm guy,” says Motor City-based location manager Dave Krieger, who took him and other producers at the end of filming to the Apex Bar in Detroit, a spot where John Lee Hooker used to play.

But at a Toronto International Film Festival press conference in September, Clooney expressed his feelings about shooting in southeast Michigan.

“First of all, Ann Arbor is an amazing city. We got there on St. Patrick’s Day and everyone was drinking green beer and everyone was screwed up, and I was like, ‘This town was made for me,’ ” he said.
The actor then said he loved working in Ann Arbor and the Motor City, waxing thoughtful on how Detroit is striving for a comeback. “When you go to Detroit you see a town that is resilient, that’s just fighting to win again, and there’s an energy to that. Just watching a city really fighting to get back on its feet and watching the inner strength of a city is tremendous.”
Healthy competition

Put it all together and we’re willing to call the great Michigan-Ohio rivalry over “Ides” a win-win for both parties. Especially after these gracious comments from our foe: “It just makes financial sense to these companies to utilize different states for their productions,” says Ohio Film Office spokeswoman Katie Sabatino. “We’re all for healthy competition.”

With that kind of attitude, there could be peace in our time — at least as it relates to filmmaking border wars.

“I think Hollywood and L.A. have had enough of the film industry (work) for a while,” Sabatino says. “They need to do more in the Midwest.”

Contact Julie Hinds: 313-222-6427 or jhinds@freepress.com. Free Press special writer Martin Bandyke contributed.

http://www.freep.com/article/20110925/ENT01/109250380/Michigan-Ohio-each-claim-key-role-Ides-March-?odyssey=mod_sectionstories

  2 Responses to ““The Ides of March” News!”

  1. Scouting the local locations in ‘The Ides of March’
    9:30 AM, Sep. 24, 2011 |

    BY JULIE HINDS

    DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

    Earlier this year, Detroit and Ann Arbor became a temporary hub of the Gov. Mike Morris campaign for president, as “The Ides of March” filmed across southeast Michigan. Some of the highlight locations:

    • A corner building at Grand River and Griswold in downtown Detroit was turned into Morris campaign headquarters. Its windows were plastered with posters of George Clooney (as Morris) seemingly inspired by Shepard Fairey’s iconic portrait of then-candidate Barack Obama from the 2008 campaign.

    • In Greektown, Marilyn’s American Tavern was filmed for a scene with Ryan Gosling and Evan Rachel Wood, who plays a young campaign intern. It also was home to a wrap party for about 300 people that the stars briefly attended. So what happened at the bash? “Besides dancing all night?” asks Shed Amin of Marilyn’s.

    • The Roberts Riverwalk Hotel in Detroit, which hadn’t opened at that point, provided three locations for sets: the Governor’s Suite (named that before “Ides”), the Stroh’s suite and a first-floor room. A wall in the first-floor room was removed for a bedroom scene so the crew could shoot through the bathroom, says the hotel’s general manager, Stephanie Donaldson. She describes getting calls at the time from fans trying to find a reason to go to the hotel during the shoot.

    “People were like, ‘Oh, we have a daughter who’s getting married. Can we look at the hotel?’ No you don’t. You don’t have a daughter,” says Donaldson with a laugh.

    • A funeral scene was filmed at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, where Clooney took a break and played catch with the crew as a group of onlookers and media watched from across the street.

    • Clooney’s character and PBS talk-show host Charlie Rose, playing himself, are in a scene that was done at the stately Dearborn Inn.

    • And for the bumpy airplane flight that’s shown at the beginning of the movie’s trailer, Clooney and Gosling were inside a 15,000-square-foot soundstage at Grace & Wild Studios in Farmington Hills.

    • Ann Arbor was another key source of locations. With three University of Michigan buildings used as sets, hundreds of students wound up being extras, says Lee Doyle of the U-M Film Office.

    The large theater at the Power Center for the Performing Arts was the venue for a scene involving an event with Gov. Morris at Kent State University. A town hall for Morris filled with young people was done at the Arthur Miller Theatre. A Morris press appearance took place inside the Michigan League.

    http://www.freep.com/article/20110925/ENT01/109250384/Scouting-local-locations-Ides-March-?odyssey=mod_sectionstories

  2. Producer Grant Heslov talks about filming ‘The Ides of March’ in Michigan
    Detroit Free Press
    25 Sept 2011

    Grant Heslov has nice things to say about filming in Michigan.

    “It was great,” says Heslov, an “Ides of March” producer and cowriter, of shooting in Ann Arbor and metro Detroit earlier this year. “We had a great crew. It (felt like) the dead of winter, so it was very cold.”

    Not that Heslov is complaining. He needed some gray skies for the moody thriller about the clash of ideals and intrigue on the presidential campaign trail. And both Michigan and Ohio, the two states where the movie was primarily filmed, delivered.

    Based on the play “Farragut North” by Beau Willimon, “Ides” is one of several movies Heslov has made with George Clooney. They earned an Oscar nomination for their original screenplay for 2005′s “Good Night, and Good Luck.” In 2009′s offbeat “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” Heslov was a producer and director.

    During a recent phone call, Heslov talked about his experience in Michigan, which he says drew the production with its film incentives and cool locations.

    QUESTION: You were here during another political drama, the fight over the Michigan film incentives. Were you aware of it?

    A: First, we wanted to make sure we were going to still get our incentive because that was a little nerve-racking. … There was a lot of fallout from (the proposed cuts to the incentives, which became law after “Ides” wrapped), because a lot of people in the crew were saying “We’re not going to be able to stay here” or (were) planning to move because they weren’t going to be able to get work, mostly transportation people, and that was a drag.

    Q: The feedback from extras was that George Clooney played a big role in putting people at ease, using humor to deal with scenes with crowds of extras. Is that a job he took on during the production?

    A: His way is to try to create an atmosphere where everybody is at ease. For some people, it’s the first time they’ve ever been around this kind of stuff. It’s important that everybody is at ease because if they’re not, then you don’t get the best performances from background people. And that’s just George’s (style). He’s a joker anyway, so it fits right in.

    Q: The local people in the cast and crew describe the production as super-efficient and smooth. What’s the secret?

    A: That’s just the way George and I always work. We try to not work really long days. We want to have lives as well. I think the trick is just having a lot of preparation, knowing what you want to get. The crew gets a lot of credit. They were fast and they were good. But preparation is most of it.

    Q: Can you talk about the challenge of getting audiences interested in a topic, politics, that they seem to be sick of in real life at the moment?

    A: The thing about this film is we didn’t set out to make a political film. It’s really more of a drama set in the world of politics. It could be set in big business.

    Q: So this is a movie about power?

    A: It’s a movie about power and how power can corrupt and winning at any means. At its real core, it’s a morality tale.

    Q: What do you think will be the future of filmmaking in Michigan under downsized incentives?

    A: It’s hard to say. I won’t sugarcoat it. Basically, films are so expensive anymore that two things have to happen: One is you’ve got to be able to have the locations you need, and the other is you’ve got to get some incentives or rebates. That’s just the way it is. I live in Los Angeles and, obviously, I would prefer to shoot here if something was right. My family lives here. … I think if people are looking for an urban setting and they need the weather we needed, people will go there (to Detroit).

    Q: The movie hasn’t opened yet, but it’s being talked about as possibly one of the big contenders of the awards season. What’s your feeling on that?

    A: I just want people to go see the film. I try not to focus on that stuff because I’m superstitious. I’m really proud of the film, and George and I worked really hard on it. At the end of the day, you just hope people will go see it.

    Contact Julie Hinds: 313-222-6427 or jhinds@freepress.com
    http://www.freep.com/article/20110925/ENT01/109250382/Producer-Grant-Heslov-talks-about-filming-Ides-March-Michigan?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

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