By Kevin Slane
July 22, 2019
From ‘Defending Jacob’ to ‘Free Guy,’ Massachusetts has seemed like one big film set this year.
After a very successful year for the Massachusetts film industry in 2018, 2019 is shaping up to be even busier for local film and TV crews.
“We’re busier now than we have ever been before. It’s insanity,” said Ryan Cook, a Boston-based location scout who is currently working on “Defending Jacob.”
“Defending Jacob,” the Apple TV+ limited series starring Chris Evans, is just one of the prominent productions currently filming in the state. “Free Guy,” the big-budget adventure-comedy starring Ryan Reynolds, has taken over large swaths of the Financial District almost every weekend since the end of May, bringing car chases, simulated gunfire, and explosions to the area. More recently, Netflix kicked off filming on “Hubie Halloween,” a new comedy starring Adam Sandler that transformed Marblehead into a Halloween haven three months early.
Here are all of the major movies and TV shows filming in Massachusetts this year — that we know of — as well as everything we currently know about them.
Season two of the Stephen King anthology features stars like Lizzy Caplan (“Mean Girls”), Tim Robbins (“The Shawshank Redemption”), Elsie Fisher (“Eighth Grade”), and Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”). The town of Orange has once again been serving as the main filming location for the series since April, just as it did in season one.
The show’s first season also filmed in Ayer, Concord, Devens, Grafton, Lancaster, and Tyngsborough. It followed numerous characters in the fictional town of Castle Rock who will be familiar to fans of the King universe.
Hulu has not yet announced a release date for the second season.
“City on a Hill”
While the Showtime crime drama set in a
Season one of “City on a Hill” debuted in May. It’s currently airing at 9 p.m. on Sundays.
The only title on this list not yet in production is “Coda,” an English-language remake of the 2014 French box office smash hit “La Famille Bélier,” set to begin filming in Gloucester later this summer. Written and directed by Sian Heder, “Coda” is about a young woman who has two deaf parents and discovers that she has an incredible singing voice. The only announced cast members so far are Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God”) and newcomer Emilia Jones, according to Deadline.
“Defending Jacob” brought Sudbury native Chris Evans back to his home state to film a limited series for the upcoming Apple TV+ streaming service. Based on a 2012 novel of the same name by local author William Landay, the show is set in Newton and concerns a lawyer named Andy Barber (Evans) whose whole life changes when his 14-year-old son (Jaeden Martell, “It”) is accused of killing a classmate.
It sounds like Apple is sparing no expense to ensure that “Defending Jacob” is a hit when Apple TV+ launches. Evans even dropped out of a planned lead role for the upcoming Antoine Fuqua movie “Infinite” due to scheduling conflicts with “Defending Jacob.”
Filming has continued for close to four months now, and the production is set to shoot in more than 40 municipalities. An incomplete list of towns and cities the show has filmed in so far includes Belmont, Concord, Devens, Framingham, Hudson, Leominster, Lowell, Natick, Newton, North Andover, Salem, Walpole, Watertown, Wellesley, and Worcester.
Crews have been filming primarily in the Financial District on weekends since May for “Free Guy,” which stars Ryan Reynolds as a bank teller named Guy who discovers he’s a background character in an open world video game called “Free City.” Between daily car chases and bank robberies, Guy meets Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”), an expert player who causes Guy to reconsider his life and step out of the background. The film also features Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”), Newburyport native Joe Keery (“Stranger Things”), Lil Rel Howery (“Get Out”), Utkarsh Ambudkar (“Pitch Perfect”), Channing Tatum (“Magic Mike”), and Camille Kostek (“I Feel Pretty”).
The film is directed by Shawn Levy (“Stranger Things,” “Night at the Museum”), who said he’s amazed at how well-suited Boston has been for the film setting.
“Boston has been an awesome backdrop for ‘Free Guy,’” Levy said. “There’s sections of Boston where you’ll have radically different looking architecture right next to each other. I had this concern that Boston was the city of red brick, and to my great surprise and joy, I’m finding buildings that are all cool-looking and very eclectic.”
Production for “Free Guy” has also taken place in the West End, the Seaport, and at Revere Beach, and it’s expected to run through at least the end of the month.
The film is set to be released July 3, 2020.
More than 250 extras took to the streets in Provincetown in June to recreate the town’s annual Carnival parade for “Hightown,” a Starz crime drama centered around the Cape Cod heroin epidemic. Originally titled “P-Town,” it stars Monica Raymund (“Chicago Fire”) as Jackie Quinones, an “irreverent National Marine Fisheries Service officer” who discovers a body that washes ashore on Labor Day weekend and becomes determined to crack the case amid resistance from state police. The show will also feature Amaury Nolasco (“Prison Break”), Dohn Norwood (“The Sinner”), James Badge Dale (“The Departed”), and Riley Voelkel (“The Originals”).
Starz has not yet announced a release date.
Longtime New Hampshire resident Adam Sandler has brought several films to the state over the years through his Happy Madison production company, including “Grown Ups,” “Grown Ups 2,” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” Now, Sandler is teaming up with Netflix to film “Hubie Halloween” on the North Shore. Set in Salem, Sandler plays Hubie Dubois, a good-natured but odd resident who is widely mocked for his obsessive devotion to the town’s annual Halloween parade. But when a real murder case disrupts the city’s celebration, it’s up to Hubie to crack the case.
The movie started production in Danvers in early July, completely decking out a couple of houses in Halloween decorations. Crews later transformed a large stretch of Marblehead’s historic district on Washington Street into a Halloween haven as a stand-in for the neighboring Salem. Residents of Salem shouldn’t feel left out, though: “Hubie Halloween” began filming in Salem on Thursday.
Kate Fox, the executive director of Destination Salem and the film liaison for the city, said she’s thrilled that Salem will once again be the setting of a Halloween-themed movie.
“We have a lot of films that use Salem to double for another location,” Ryan said. “The last time we had a film set in Salem of this nature was ‘Hocus Pocus,’ and people still come here to visit because of that movie. So I’m excited to see ‘Hubie Halloween’ get made, and see what it does.”
“I Care A Lot”
After completing his Emmy-winning performance on “Game of Thrones,” Peter Dinklage’s first project after the airing of the series finale is “I Care A Lot,” which has been filming in Natick and Wellesley this month. Dinklage will be joining Rosamund Pike, best known for her Oscar-nominated role opposite Ben Affleck in “Gone Girl,” and a supporting cast that includes Eiza González (“Baby Driver”), Chris Messina (“The Mindy Project”), and Scoot McNairy (“Argo”).
According to a studio synopsis, the thriller centers around Marla Grayson (Pike), a professional legal guardian who uses her knowledge of the law in order to live a luxurious lifestyle at the expense of her elderly clients. But when one of her senior victims harbors dangerous secrets, Marla finds herself in a life-or-death situation.
“I Care A Lot” does not have a scheduled release date.