By Jennifer Myers
June 28, 2009
LOWELL — It is only two minutes and sixteen seconds long, but it is all there: La Boniche, The Dubliner, Market Street, Central Street, the Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank, the unmistakable sign of the Athenian Corner restaurant.
Lowell on film.
Last spring, the Mill City became Hollywood East as British comedian Ricky Gervais and crew, including Jennifer Garner, Louis C.K., Stephanie March and Philip Seymour Hoffman, descended upon the downtown. The film, then called This Side of the Truth, is now named The Invention of Lying.
The movie’s trailer was officially released Friday, giving the world its first glimpse of the tale that takes place in a world where lying does not exist. Gervais’ and Garner’s characters, Mark and Jennifer, are having their first date in a scene shot in La Boniche on May 5 of last year. Her cell phone rings.
“I’m with him right now,” she says. “Seems nice. A bit fat.”
“She is way out of your league,” the waiter tells Gervais.
“No, I won’t be sleeping with him tonight,” Garner continues to her friend on the phone.
“Ooh,” groans Gervais.
His life changes when he discovers how to fib, a tremendous advantage in a world where no one else knows of the existence of, and therefore would never suspect, a lie.
Sitting at the bar at The Dubliner, in a scene shot in mid-April of last year, Gervais tests out his new ability to lie on Louis C.K.
“I’m black,” he says.
“I knew it,” answers C.K.
“I’m an Eskimo,” Gervais says.
“Fantastic,” says C.K.
“I’m a one-armed German space explorer,” Gervais says.
“When’s your launch date?” asks C.K.
Other scenes included in the trailer include Gervais banking at the Lowell Five on John Street, walking down Central Street and talking to March on Market Street in front of the Athenian Corner.
Ted Panagiotopoulos, owner of the Athenian Corner said it’s “kind of a neat little thing.”
“I know they had covered up the sign and called it just ‘The Restaurant’ because the theme of the movie was that everything was kind of plain,” he added. “It’s kind of neat to go up to the big screen and see a place that your family owns and that you grew up in, even if it’s just for a split second.”
“I can’t say how excited I am,” gushed Deb Belanger, executive director of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, when told yesterday morning that the trailer had been released. “The filming really had a huge impact on people here in the downtown and I know that people will be really proud to be from Lowell when they see this.”
The film, which also stars Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Jonah Hill and Christopher Guest, will be released on Sept. 25. Belanger is working hard to wrangle a premiere in Lowell. If that does not pan out, she promises there will at least be a screening and big party.
“I am talking to Nick Paleologos (director of the Massachusetts Film Office) every week,” she said. “Our goal is to do some sort of premiere or advance screening at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium (which doubles as a casino in the movie), but if that does not work out our Plan B is to use the (Showcase) Cinema and do a big event out there.”
Belanger added that a lot of locals, who worked as extras, are itching to discover if they made it onto the big screen, or were left on the cutting room floor. Belanger included.
“I was an extra in the wedding scene,” she said. “Even if it is only my arm in the scene, I’ll know.”
Other notable extras include Tsongas Arena General Manager Craig Gates and some of the staff from the Old Court.
In an interview with The Sun last year, Gervais, who co-wrote the movie with his partner Matt Robinson, said Lowell was chosen as the backdrop for two reasons: the tax credits offered by the state for filmmakers and because “it looks so good on film.”
“There is no town like it,” he said. “On the face of it, it looks like what you imagine a typical American town to be, but different. So it’s just perfect. It’s really got a lot of character.”