ANNAPOLIS – So you want to be in pictures? Forget Hollywood. Try Baltimore, New Windsor or Berlin.
Charm City and other Maryland locales have been giving Tinsel Town a run for its money. More than 50 films have been shot at least partly in Maryland, said Michael Styer, director of the Maryland Film Commission.
Two – “Runaway Bride,” starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, and “Liberty Heights,” featuring Joe Mantegna and Bebe Neuwirth – are wrapping up now.
Since 1991, the film industry has generated almost $360 million for state coffers and local businesses. About $77 million of that came in last year, said Andrea Thomas, spokeswoman for the commission.
Maryland has doubled as a set for decades. One of the early silent films, “First Kiss” with Cary Grant, was filmed in 1928 in St. Michaels, on the Eastern Shore.
Barry Levinson and John Waters, two of Baltimore’s most famous directors and screenwriters, have used Maryland as a backdrop in some of their films.
But most have preferred to pretend the Maryland scenes are someplace else.
“There are not that many people writing about Baltimore,” said Styer, which he said makes his job attracting movies to Maryland tougher. “We have to sell ourselves as a double.”
Of the approximately 50 movies filmed in Maryland, only a few have been set in the state, Styer said. They include “Patriot Games,” with shots of the U.S. Naval Academy, and “Hairspray” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” both with Baltimore backdrops.
Areas in Maryland have doubled for Washington D.C., Amish Pennsylvania, and the trenches of World War I.
“We can’t do the desert or the Southwest, but we [can play] New England, Ohio, the South, Midwest, New York,” Styer said, because of the state’s diverse geography, which ranges from beaches to mountains, marshes to major cities.
Among the movies shot in Maryland have been:
* “Twelve Monkeys,” a 1995 science-fiction film starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, which used various locations for time travel, including a Chase quarry in a World War I trench scene.
* “Absolute Power,” a 1997 Clint Eastwood film about a presidential affair that ends in murder. It featured Maryvale Preparatory School in Brooklandville as the mansion Eastwood broke into and used Cecil County’s Turkey Point for a cliff scene.
* “For Richer or Poorer,” a 1997 movie about a real estate hustler and his wife hiding out from the IRS in what is supposed to be Pennsylvania’s Amish country. The farm was actually in Carroll County, and shots of a neighboring town were done on Main Street in Westminster.
* “Beloved,” the 1998 adaptation of Toni Morrison’s book starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover, about a slave revisited by the spirit of her dead daughter. The story is set in Ohio, but features the woods of Cecil County’s Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Center, where a cabin was built for outdoor shots.
While Maryland’s film office likes to attract as many movies as it can, said Thomas, the state can handle only up to three major productions at the same time.
That’s because the state has about 500 professional film technicians – enough to handle three productions, said Rosemarie Levy, a spokeswoman for the Washington D.C./Baltimore chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
The state is now courting some Civil War pieces and has a tentative agreement for one to be shot in Frederick County, Styer said. The commission is also scouting three or four projects for the spring, including a Revolutionary War piece for the Annapolis area, Styer said. -30-