Hollywood crew, stars invade Sellwood streets

Although their streets were crowded with motion picture production trucks, neighbors said they enjoyed watching “the stars come out” in Sellwood ‚Ķ

At the intersection of SE 11th Ave. and Marion St. in Sellwood, a crew sets up a motion picture camera next to an “Atlanta Business Chronicle” news box. Wait ‚Äì Atlanta? Yes; this is movie magic in action.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A few blocks of east Sellwood became “Hollywood on the Willamette” during the first week in October.

“Into the Wild”, a major studio motion picture, is being directed by Sean Penn, and it stars Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt and Catherine Keener. The movie is being shot in several Oregon locations, including Astoria, the Cascade Mountains, and yes – even Sellwood.

Marcia Gay Harden stops outside her dressing trailer to give a fan her autograph.

Trucks, trailers, generators and transportation vans clogged SE 11th and 13th Avenues, along SE Marion and Linn Streets, when we visited the movie’s outdoor set.

Frank Hildebrand, a producer of the film, took a moment to speak with us about his project. “I thank the neighbors for cooperating with us; everyone has been extremely friendly. We’re thrilled to be able to make this motion picture here in Oregon.”

Packed with trucks carrying production equipment and supplies, SE Marion St. looked more like a Hollywood back lot than a residential street.

The principal actors were seen only for the brief moments when the cameras were rolling. However, the streets were filled with technical crew members and “atmosphere people”, the local “extras” one sees in the background of some shots.

Brush with stardom
Neighbor Bill Bahrenburg, tipped us off about the production’s location ‚Äì something which producer Hildebrand confided to us he’d wished had been kept secret.

Bahrenburg had a front-row seat; William Hurt’s “star coach” was parked in front his home on the 1100 block of SE Linn St.

“It is pretty exciting,” Bahrenburg told us, “to have a major Hollywood production filmed here in our sleepy little corner of Sellwood.  The fact that we can’t park by our house is an inconvenience, but it is outweighed by the opportunity to see the Hollywood machine in process.”

Neighbor Bill Bahrenburg snapped this photo of Sean Penn as the director scurried about his Sellwood set.

It’s not every day that one walks out his front door, he said, and sees William Hurt coming out of a trailer. “Or spots Sean Penn directing a scene just around the corner, or hears Marcia Gay Harden screaming that her wardrobe isn’t in her trailer. It seems surreal. It took them hours to set up a scene that will probably get 10 seconds on the screen.”

An unexpected pleasure, Bahrenburg said, was meeting and chatting with many of his neighbors where were watching the production. “I got to meet so many people I’ve seen when walking the dogs, but never spoken with. This production was good for community building.”

Waiting to be called into action, area resident and “background player extraordinaire” Jennifer Gill is in costume, ready for her next assignment.

Production moves to Reed
When shooting ended in Sellwood, a giant construction crane on the Reed College tipped observers to the next “location” filming. The crane held up part of a set used in the production. What looked like a massive structure from the camera’s point of view was, in reality, a flimsy two-dimensional set suspended from a rope.

Hundreds of students and faculty members from the college served as “extras” on the set of this particular shoot.

Within a day, the crew had moved on. But, the memories left by the production will linger for quite some time, we suspect.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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