By Christopher Haraden
The Hull Times
June 26, 2008
As quickly as this past week’s unsettled weather swept through Hull, so too did film crews from director Martin Scorsese’s latest project, an adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel set on a Boston Harbor island.
Scorsese and the film’s star, Leonardo DiCaprio, arrived at Pemberton Point early Monday morning to prepare for filming on Peddocks Island, which has been transformed into the set of “Ashecliffe,” a movie based on Lehane’s 2003 novel “Shutter Island.” The book is set in 1954 and tells the story of a US marshal [played by DiCaprio] who searches a Boston Harbor island for an escaped patient from the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
The overcast skies were reportedly perfect for the film shoot, which includes scenes in which a hurricane deluges the island’s foreboding brick buildings and underground bunkers. Members of the production company staff also said Scorsese’s movie is among those that are rushing to wrap up filming by June 30 in case of a threatened strike by the Screen Actors Guild.
As food-service trucks, supply trailers, modular office units, and even his-and-hers bathrooms labeled “Lucy” and “Desi” from as far away as California crowded the parking area at Hull Gut, the movie stars used the high school’s cafeteria as a wardrobe and makeup studio.
Celebrity-watchers who staked out Pemberton Pier caught glimpses of DiCaprio, Scorsese, and other Ashecliffe stars early Monday morning and when filming was finished at around 6:15 that evening. Hull Police Sgt. Bart Forzese escorted DiCaprio from the high school across the street as the actor, dressed in a brown suit and wearing a 1950s-era fedora, made his way to the boat dock.
Nobody was allowed on the island while the filming was taking place.
“I’m sorry, it’s a closed set,” said Paramount Pictures spokesman Larry Kaplan, in turning down the Times’ request to observe the actors at work. “We haven’t done any publicity on this in any of our locations.”
In April, Paramount personnel spent 10 days in town staging the island for the movie. On June 17, a Green Hill resident called the fire department after seeing smoke coming from one of four boats off of Hull at 7:35 p.m.; the incident also was part of the Ashecliffe filming.
In addition to DiCaprio, the film stars Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Mark Ruffalo, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, and Michelle Williams. It is scheduled to be released in October 2009.
Even though the film set was self-contained – the canteen trucks provided lunches for the actors and rented trailers were stuffed with tools and supplies – the presence of Hollywood types in Hull was felt by local businesses.
Town Manager Philip Lemnios said Paramount paid the town $10,000 for the April shooting period, representing $1,000 per day for 10 days of police details and parking-lot rentals. This week, the film studio paid the town another $1,000 for Monday’s activity, plus a $500 donation to the school department for use of the cafeteria.
“The Clarion benefited immensely from the Paramount group,” said Steve Campbell, senior sales manager of the Clarion Nantasket Beach Resort Hotel and Spa. “The group has been here the entire month and also stayed for the most part of April. They are a great group to work with, and they helped us reach June occupancy of around 90 percent the entire month, when put with the rest of the hotel mix of clients.”
Campbell, a member of the Hull Nantasket Chamber of Commerce board of directors, also said the crew members “definitely dined around town while here for the entire month,” giving a boost to local restaurants and stores.
Hull was used as a staging area for the film, but Peddocks Island, with its steep cliffs and the remains of Fort Andrews, is the real star of the movie. No scenes were shot on the mainland in Hull, although other Massachusetts locations include Medfield State Hospital and a mill in Taunton.
Lehane – a Boston-area author whose previous works include “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby, Gone” – appears to have combined several aspects of Boston’s harbor islands to create his fictional Shutter Island.
In the book, US Marshal Teddy Daniels [DiCaprio] and his partner, Chuck Aule [Ruffalo], search an old fort, vine-covered cliffs, and a fenced-off lighthouse for murderess Rachel Solando [Mortimer], who “is loose somewhere on this remote and barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance. As a killer hurricane bears relentlessly down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades – with hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, and lethal countermoves made in the cause of a covert shadow war,” according to the book’s plot summary.