Scorsese shooting film in area

By Keith Ferguson
Walpole Times and Daily News Transcript
Jun 20, 2008

Walpole–Hollywood has invaded Walpole’s neighbors over the last few months as Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese begins to wrap up shooting for his new movie “Ashecliffe.”

Simple yellow signs with the word “Ashe” typed on them have been directing cast and crew to filming locations in Medfield and Sharon over the past few months.

“Ashecliffe” is an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s bestselling novel “Shutter Island.” Lehane is a Dorchester native who has also written the Boston-centric flicks “Mystic River,” and “Gone Baby Gone.”

His newest drama is set in 1954 and follows U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels investigating the disappearance of a murderess and mental patient who has escaped from an institution on a remote Boston Harbor island. Daniels and his partner, Chuck Aule, run into trouble when they are deceived by hospital workers, and an inmate riot and a hurricane trap them on the island.

Daniels is being played by Hollywood superstar Leonardo DiCaprio. Mark Ruffalo portrays Aule. Michelle Williams and Ben Kingsley will act in supporting roles. The film has a targeted release date of Oct. 2, 2009, according to Variety. The abandoned Medfield State Hospital on Hospital Road off Rte. 27 serves as the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

Medfield State Hospital, on 300 acres, once served as an asylum for psychiatric rehabilitation before its doors were shut in 2001. Filming began at the hospital in April. “I think probably a lot of filming will be done up there,” Medfield Town Administrator Michael Sullivan said.

The Medfield set, like all filming locations, is closed to the public. The grounds still house a large tent, several trailers, lighting poles and construction equipment. A faux-grave yard was also constructed outside of the hospital. Sullivan said some inspiration may have been taken from Medfield State’s real cemetery further down on Rte. 27 in the form of the quote “Remember us for we too have lived, loved and laughed” engraved on a stone at the site’s entrance.

Currently, the crew is filming in Nahant but they are expected back in Medfield in the near future to shoot scenes through July, according to a guard stationed at the hospital.

Filming took place in early May at Borderland State Park in Sharon and Easton.The stone lodge on the bank of Leach Pond, which has long harbored winter hikers, serves as a Shutter Island cottage, according to William Hocking of the Borderland Advisory Council.

In late May, Scorsese and company set up cameras on Dedham’s Wilson Mountain to film a scene in which DiCaprio and Ruffalo are traversing a highly wooded area. The first shots of the movie were taken in Taunton in March, as Whittenton Mills was transformed into the infamous Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. DiCaprio’s character is a World War II veteran who experiences multiple flashbacks during the film. A plethora of Bay State residents are being used as extras at filming locations throughout the state.

Open casting calls were held in late January at Boston University. Local men and women will have the chance at their 15 minutes of fame playing doctors, nurses, orderlies, guards, mental patients, American and German soldiers, and concentration camp prisoners.

Since passing a movie incentive package two years ago, Massachusetts has attracted several blockbuster films to the state.
In 2007, eight films were shot in Massachusetts – including “21,” “The Great Debaters,” “Pink Panther Deux,” “The Game Plan,” and the aforementioned “Gone Baby Gone.” Under the Tax Credit Law, filmmakers who shoot at least half their movie or spend at least half their production budget in Massachusetts are entitled to tax credit equal to 25 percent of their total spending. They are also completely exempt from paying sales tax on production related items purchased in the state.

“We’ve had just a steady stream of production spending and movie making, just one movie after another after another,” said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. His office has ranked Massachusetts as the second best state in which to film, behind only New Mexico. Prior to the tax law, filmmakers would only make their way to the Bay State if their script had a connection to Boston, such as “Fever Pitch,” and Scorsese’s 2007 Best Picture “The Departed.”

Even then, minimal time was spent in the state and cities like Toronto and New York City were often substituted for Boston.
Paleologos said “Ashecliffe” is evidence that filmmakers are interested now in shooting in parts of the state outside of Boston and Cambridge. “They’re out there,” he said. “An army of location scouts. We give them the lay of the land and they’re off to the races.”

With Peddock’s Island, located off mainland Hull, serving as the fictional Shutter Island, it is unknown whether shots of Boston will be incorporated in the film. The Hull island is known for excellent views of Beantown’s skyline.

Keith Ferguson can be reached at

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