Barnsdall sees stars as 'August: Osage County' films downtown
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
10/10/12 at 2:31 AM
Read continuing coverage on “August: Osage County” filming now in northeastern Oklahoma.
BARNSDALL - One of Barnsdall's claims to fame is that it's home to the only Main Street oil well in America, which until sometime recently pumped oil on an everyday basis. A second well appeared on Main Street on Tuesday but only as a prop that was pumping for the cameras.
And if that wasn't confounding enough for the locals, there was the large, red-lettered "LIQUOR" sign hanging above an empty storefront on Main Street that had been installed recently.
"We don't have a liquor store in town, so I knew something was up," said Barnsdall resident Becky Seals, watching a flurry of activity that on Tuesday closed down several blocks leading to the center of town. "We have two bars. I think we have 15 churches. But no liquor stores."
Something was up in Barnsdall: The filming of "August: Osage County" had come to town.
The major motion picture - based on Tulsa native Tracy Letts' play, starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, produced by George Clooney - has been filming in Osage and Washington counties since mid-September.
Onlookers from Barnsdall and several other cities descended on downtown Tuesday and watched a scene repeat multiple times: Three people are wedged into a red Ferrari that wheels onto Main Street, parking across the street from the liquor store. A man in a dark suit emerges and crosses to the store, while another man and a girl remain with the Ferrari, in a conversation that onlookers beyond a perimeter cannot make out.
The man crossing the street was actor Ewan McGregor, star of "Moulin Rouge!" and best-known to mass audiences as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the later "Star Wars" trilogy. Standing beside the flashy car was Dermot Mulroney, a veteran of films including "My Best Friend's Wedding," and Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine" herself who's now moved into teen roles.
"Apparently this is supposed to be the Pawhuska liquor store, and they are stopping off for some wine for the family dinner," said Don Miller, a longtime Tulsa community theater veteran. He now lives in Pawhuska and on this day was hired as an extra - as was his purple 1995 Hyundai Accent, which he was to drive through the scene as a background vehicle.
"It's been an interesting morning," Miller said, waiting in the morning chill along with 30-something crew members and director John Wells (the longtime "ER" producer) while joking with his fellow extras.
"They fed us breakfast over at a local church. They removed our car tags and put on other plates," he said. "And I followed the only instruction they gave me for today: Don't wash it. I assumed they meant the car."
"August: Osage County" is based on Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning play and tells the story of a highly dysfunctional family coming together at their Pawhuska-area ancestral home during a time of crisis.
Streep plays the family matriarch, and Roberts portrays her oldest daughter. Other cast members include Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis and Margo Martindale.
Roberts' character is separated from her husband, who in the film is played by McGregor, and they are parents to a 14-year-old girl, played by Breslin. Mulroney plays a shady character who is engaged to Lewis' character, who is the middle of three daughters to Streep's character.
"That's Obi-Wan Kenobi!" one onlooker said, pointing out McGregor to his young son, who was out of school on "something of a field trip," the man said with a smile.
Robin Seals has been amused at watching the activity around the film set in recent days, as she lives just a block away. "That pretend liquor store is in a building owned by a church, and I've seen the pastor outside, keeping people out. People have been trying to go inside to buy liquor because they think it's real."
Rhonda Seals, sister of Robin and Becky, found the accommodations for cast and crew members to be top-of-the-line. Even the bathrooms.
"That 'Luxury Restroom' trailer over there, they let me use it. It was so nice, with air-conditioning and a big, big mirror," she said, providing proof by exhibiting a slideshow on the little camera she had taken inside the rest room to snap shots.
"August: Osage County" producers decided to shoot in the place of origin for Letts' play. The picture is expected to receive a tax rebate of more than $5 million on anticipated spending in Oklahoma of about $14.9 million, said Jill Simpson, director of the Oklahoma Film & Music Office.
Among the thousands of hotel-room nights and house rentals for cast and crew for the more than two months of filming, other expenses on Tuesday included paying the owner of Bigheart Pizza in Barnsdall enough to close down for the day across from the "liquor store" and paying Smith Petroleum Co. to place a temporary oil well in the middle of Main Street.
All of this movie-magic - from repeated scene-shoots to extras moving on cue to the crew scurrying around shushing onlookers and moving cameras and lights around on the set - proved fascinating for the dozens of onlookers who came and went during the day of filming.
Some came and stayed, like Denise Redmond, Nancy Nelson and Tamra Spence of Tulsa.
All three work at Bluestone Natural Resources and took the day off Tuesday to watch the outdoor scene - just as they did 10 days earlier in traveling to Pawhuska to watch actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Cooper perform an emotional scene in that community's downtown.
They came for the cast, and they can't get enough.
"I'm here to see the stars, but there's no need to call me a stargazer; I'm proud to be a stalker," said Redmond, laughing with her friends, and Nelson agreed.
"That's what I told people: This is stalking field trip No. 2," Nelson said as Mulroney approached within about 20 feet between takes, inducing the following comment to her friends: "Oh, be still my heart, oh, he is totally cute!"
"This is great. I didn't realize that they would shoot the same scene again and again before that day in Pawhuska, but now we know what to expect. We're getting good at this."
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Original Print Headline: Seeing stars
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
Ewan McGregor (left), Abigail Breslin (center) and Dermot Mulroney drive through downtown Barnsdall in a Ferrari during the filming of "August: Osage County" on Tuesday. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Ewan McGregor (right) and Dermot Mulroney film a scene for "August: Osage County" and give fans a thrill in downtown Barnsdall. "I'm here to see the stars ... I'm proud to be a stalker," Denise Redmond said of her trip from Tulsa to watch the filming. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Dermot Mulroney (center) talks with "August: Osage County" crew members near a temporary oil well set up in the middle of Main Street in Barnsdall. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Don Miller, a longtime Tulsa actor who is working as an extra on "August: Osage County," prepares to drive his car through a scene in downtown Barnsdall on Tuesday. "I followed the only instruction they gave me for today: Don't wash it. I assumed they meant the car." MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Director John Wells talks with onlookers before the filming of "August: Osage County" in downtown Barnsdall. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World