By Chris Curtis
June 15, 2013
MILLERS FALLS — When a scouting crew for the film “The Judge” stopped into Jonathan Laurent’s East Main Street clock shop in March, they were so absorbed by the setting they wandered into his storeroom unannounced.
In contrast, no one was smitten with the buildings across the street. So, to use this former mill village as a Hollywood backdrop easily visible through the clock shop window, the film company had to spruce things up. One rundown building they hid with shrubbery. The lower half of the building’s peeling yellow facade was masked with a collection of potted trees Thursday afternoon, although it was not clear if these were in final position or headed elsewhere.
The three buildings on the south side of the street, beginning at the corner of Bridge Street, were taken by the town for back taxes and have sat for several years in perpetual litigation after several more years of inactivity from owners as the buildings deteriorated.
When a Warner Bros. representative came before the Board of Selectmen for permits to use the street and block off parking, included in the request was permission to temporarily beautify the buildings.
“We actually were trying to get them to paint it,” said Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio, speaking of the yellow wood building.
Failing that, he said he had been hoping for some type of prop sign the town could keep on the building as a curiosity to catch the attention of possible developers in the future, should the current bidders pull out for any reason.
On the north side of the street, little had changed Thursday. The outdoor signs for It’s About Time Clocks and Antiques and The Millers Pub, the two filming locations, remained in place.
Laurent said the clock shop, which he and partner Alex Sall opened three years ago at 29 East Main St., had already been made over for the movie and remained 80 percent identical to its usual state.
The clocks lining the walls and other surfaces — including a small part of his extensive collection of antique Cuckoo clocks — are all his, as are many that will appear elsewhere in the film; Laurent said the company has contracted with his shop to buy or rent clocks to dress other sets.
One notable change is the name. While the sign above the street remained until Friday, the window now declares this shop “Midwestern Antiques and Clock Repair,” meshing conveniently with Laurent’s business buying, selling and repairing antique clocks, and the Indiana setting of the Warner Bros. film.
Through the window, the previously boarded-up and now relatively innocuous beige house across the street — last of the row of unwanted town properties — is plainly visible.
“They did spend time there trying to make the outside a little nicer,” Laurent said. “Took off the boards. It’s supposed to be Indiana so we don’t want it to look like a ghost town from the West.”
The original permits specified filming next week, but plans changed suddenly and now the clock shop and bar are closed for the duration. Laurent said he expected to be closed for about a week. Two doors down, Tammy Berard said Warner Bros. has rented The Millers Pub for 10 days.
This is the bar’s second brush with fame as a Hollywood film set. Last year sent it back in time for the filming of Paramount’s as-yet-unreleased “Labor Day,” starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet.
Berard, who co-owns the bar with Ed Tolzdorf, said she doesn’t know the reason for The Millers Pub’s sudden star-turn.
Berard said she was away and Tolzdorf ran the show last time around, but she takes the arrival of movie stars in stride.
“I’m not a star-struck person,” Berard said. “Everyone has a job, my job is to run a bar, their job is to act.”
This year’s stars include Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall.
Laurent expected Downey Jr. to walk through the clock shop for a quick scene, and filming might have continued upstairs. Laurent said the art department was equally enthused with his upstairs office, but eventually re-created the scene at Singley Furniture in Shelburne Falls. Laurent said he had not met any of the actors, but the crew have been great to work with.
Members of the production team are tight-lipped about the process and who will be where cannot be confirmed.