By Stephen Schaefer
January 18, 2011
The hit TV writer-producer (“Southland,” “The West Wing,” “ER”) initially set his story of three downsized, unemployed guys — played by Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones — against the background of the dismantled steel industry.
“But the steel mills were gone,” Wells said from Chicago last week where he’s preparing to film Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s Broadway hit “August: Osage County” with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.
So Wells switched sites and focused on the shipping industry, specifically to Quincy’s Fore River shipyard, “for the final big location with Tommy Lee when they’re looking out on the piers of what they’d lost.”
Wells, who spent eight months in the city and filmed for 40 days, quickly discovered “Boston was a great place to shoot” — and to eat.
His favorite restaurants: “Neptune Oyster, B&G Oysters and the Butcher Shop. I can eat,” he said with a laugh.
“During the four months scouting and setting up, we’d work during the day and by 3, I would say, ‘Where are we going to dinner?’ ”
It was harder to pin down a favorite location.
“That’s tough. I loved Marblehead, which was the Tommy Lee Jones house, and the closed shipyard in Quincy, which is where they shot the end of ‘The Departed.’
“We shot downtown and in Framingham and Braintree; we were shooting everywhere.”
Wells cast two locals — and not just for convenience.
“Chris Cooper is a national treasure, one of the finest actors we have. He was 45 minutes to an hour from the locations but you’d have to ask him whether it was his determination that he could drive to work to do this.
“Ben,” he added, “lives in Los Angeles and hasn’t lived in Boston for a while. He did not have to worry about the accent, but you’ll notice it got heavier as the movie goes along. Being back home does that to you.”