Star-struck and wind-whipped
Friendly actor and fake tornado mark a busy day of filming
Recorder file photo/Diane Broncaccio
Shelburne Falls was one local location for the filming of “The Judge.”
Robert Downey Jr drives during filming in Shelburne Falls
‘The Judge” movie extras wait in between takes in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday during a scene where Robert Downey Jr. drives over the Iron Bridge. From left are Erica Lundin of Chelmsford, Ellyana Stanton of Sunderland and Linda Rollins of Shelburne Falls.
SHELBURNE FALLS — “Is this really called Foxtown Diner, or is that just a name they made up?” asks a man outside of the crowed, actual Foxtown Diner. It is Day 4 of filming on-scene for “The Judge,” starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duval and some people who have never been to the village before seem to be coming to watch. Anyone could have been easily confused. Near the Bridge and Main streets intersection are new highway signs indicating directions to Evansville, Indiana, while Massamont Realty has become “P.J. Novak Realty,” and the Salmon Falls Artisans Showroom is now the “Flying Deer Diner.”
But the Foxtown is still the Foxtown, and when asked after the lunch rush if she had any food left, owner Judy Grader laughed. “Yes I do. I doubled my orders for this week,” she said.
Bridge Street kept its carnival-like atmosphere, except for when the filmmakers were shooting. The street would grow eerily quiet as the day-long spectators noticed more production folks talking on their radios and coaxing the extras. Then you’d hear them shout. “Rolling. EXTRAS!”
From morning through afternoon, a tow truck with mounted cameras in back would drive down Bridge Street, pulling a white SUV, which sometimes appears to be driven by Downey. In a few seconds it’s over and the street comes to life, as spectators, hidden from the camera’s view, pour out from the shops or from the alleys in which they were temporarily “hidden.”
Some of the local “extras” were on Bridge Street by 6 a.m. and were still playing their walk-on rolls well into the afternoon.
“I was given a new husband and baby,” said one woman, who was walking beside another extra from Franklin County. “We were both called in on Friday — and we weren’t even married then,” she jokes.
“We’re just a couple, strolling down the road, window shopping with our baby,” she says, pointing to a buggy down the street with an infant doll in it.
“It should really be our grandchild,” adds the man. “We both have adult children.”
He says he came to the audition with his real-life wife, who wanted to be an extra in the film. Instead, they picked him. “Three weeks ago, I never dreamed I would be doing this.”
Also, three young skateboarding boys have come down from Cambridge and Newburyport, just to be skateboarding around in the background of a scene. One of their parents says the casting company watched them skate on video before choosing them.
Suzanne Hennessy of South Hadley brought her 2-year-old son Justin to Shelburne Falls to see his first movie.
“It really does feel like you’re walking down a movie set — not just walking down a town street,” she said.
Hennessey said she saw workers building a set on Deerfield Avenue. They had converted the interior of the vacant, former Mole Hollow Candle building into a casual diner, with old lace curtains on the windows, plastic ketchup dispensers and paper napkin holders on each table.
I watched for hours as a production worker shouted “Rolling!” as a woman loaded with two bags of groceries would leave the Keystone Market, and a young store clerk, sweeping the sidewalk in front of the market, stopped and helped her load them into the back of a station wagon — parked directly in front of the store. This is repeated over and over.
I see Robert Downey Jr. just — as he pretends to drive the SUV, which is towed by the truck with the camera on it.
Later on Wednesday afternoon, more production workers are feeding wire that has been hooked up to tree branches onto rigging equipment, in preparation for a tornado scene to be shot at the end of the day.
Early in the evening, the SUV Downey was driving broke down on Bridge Street right in front of Memorial Hall. As mechanics rushed over to work on it, Downey surprised the crowd by joining them at the side of the street, shaking hands and mugging for the many phones brought out to shoot pictures.
Huge wind fans sat in the parking lot behind Bridge Street, waiting to be used for Wednesday night’s tornado scene. The wind machines will blow leaves and objects around the street, and the wires will be pulled like marionette strings, making the tree branches dance like puppets.
Rain scenes are scheduled for today and Friday, so it looks like the filmmakers are in luck, considering the weather forecast for rain.
In the film, Downey’s character, a lawyer, returns to his hometown, Carlinville, for his mother’s funeral, and learns that his father (played by Robert Duvall) is a murder suspect. Other stars in the film include Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio and Billy Bob Thornton.
Last Friday afternoon, Downey surprised and delighted a group of Bridge Street bystanders by coming out to greet them, letting them take photos. He also signed one girl’s cast.
Shelburne Selectmen had their first “tailgate selectmen’s meeting” Monday night. They had scheduled their regular meeting at the Buckland Shelburne Elementary School, instead of in Memorial Hall to avoid the filming. However, the school was locked when they arrived, and no one came to unlock it. “We had posted the meeting, and we had a liquor license hearing,” said Chairman Robert Manners. “So John (Payne) and I parked our pickup trucks back-to-back and (Town Administrator) Terry Mosher used a cooler for her desk.” He said the meeting went as scheduled.
You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277