By: Charles Winokoor – The Herald News – December 12, 2020
Hollywood descends on Fall River’s Battleship Cove for “Don’t Look Up” movie
FALL RIVER — He’s not a member of the paparazzi, but Mayor Paul Coogan did manage to get a somewhat distant eyeful of three bona fide movie stars Friday night.
Coogan says he spent about an hour aboard the stern deck of the Battleship Massachusetts as Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence acted in a scene for a movie to be called “Don’t Look Up.”
The scene was shot on a stage that had been built to accommodate cameras, crew and cast, he said.
The production company for the Netflix movie — which has been described as a satirical, political disaster movie about a killer asteroid hurtling toward Earth — had reserved the entire Battleship Cove parking lot for a dozen large actors’ trailers.
Coogan said an assistant location manager had invited him to be a guest then called back apologizing that it wouldn’t be possible.
He then called the mayor again to say if he could provide documentation that he had tested negative for COVID-19 it would be fine.
The mayor says he took a ride to Bristol Community College at 5:30 p.m. where a rapid test site was in operation, tested negative and drove straight to Big Mamie.
He says he wasn’t allowed to bring along his wife or anyone from his City Hall staff due to coronavirus precautions.
Coogan said before leaving the ship his host made it clear how appreciative he and everyone else connected with the production were of the level of cooperation from the city.
“He said some towns are painful to deal with, but that was not the case here, and that’s what you want,” Coogan said.
The mayor also managed to record fireworks that were shot off near the ship as part of the scene, which Coogan said will last all of about four minutes in the movie once it’s released.
Coogan said he was told that vehicular noise from the Braga Bridge above the battleship was not a problem because of special noise-cancelling devices the crew would use in post production.
Security measures included the closure of the lower Central Street ramp road leading to the Battleship Cove parking lot and police detail officers detouring traffic away from the site on Water Street.
Before coming to Fall River, location shooting for “Don’t Look Up” had been done in Boston.
Coogan said he was told that the same 50 or so extras being used in the movie are being shuttled to various locations as a COVID-19 precaution.
He also said the production crew initially considered filming at Veterans Memorial Bicentennial Park a mile north overlooking the Taunton River but decided instead to use the battleship.
Coogan said he doesn’t know why that decision was made, and he declined to comment on the nature of the plot scene that was filmed on the battleship.
Christopher Nardi, chief operating officer of the Battleship Cove Museum, with its World War II collection of military vessels and maritime museum, was also onboard during the movie shoot.
He said the stage was set up in the middle of the afternoon and that filming had wrapped up by 8:30 p.m.
Equipment began arriving in the parking lot at the beginning of the week, Nardi said. By Friday two large, white tents with tables, chairs and catered food were onsite.
Nardi said the experience was a positive one.
“Netflix is a great company to work with, and they were very appreciative of our cooperation,” he said.
In July, Nardi discussed the significant loss of revenue to the museum caused by the pandemic with events being canceled and less visitors coming to the site.
He declined to discuss how much Netflix paid to use the battleship and the parking lot other than to say that “every little bit helps.”
Nardi says he was most impressed by the logistical organization of the film crew.
“The logistics were just incredible,” he said. “We worked with them, and I just couldn’t believe how much lighting and material came in.”
Nardi added, “It’s good publicity for the ship, and they were so cordial and appreciative of us.”
Pedestrians walking on the adjacent river boardwalk were not allowed to approach the Low Price Lenny Kaplan footbridge leading to the parking lot.
A cheerful Tiffany Powers of New Bedford was one of those standing in the dark keeping an eye on the parking lot area and the battleship, parts of which were aglow with white and colored lights.
Powers, 26, said she came straight from her job at the nearby Hallkeen Management office at the Commonwealth Landing building to try to catch a glimpse of one particular actor.
“Leonardo DiCaprio is my favorite actor hands down, and ‘Titanic’ is my favorite movie,” she said.
Powers said she also admires DiCaprio for his support of environmental initiatives and projects.
Near the entrance to the Narrows Center for the Arts, drummer Chris Anzalone was preparing to play a live, broadcast set with the band called Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles.
“It’s great for the community, right?” Anzalone, 51, said, when told about the movie being shot next door at Battleship Cove.
Referring to actors DiCaprio, Streep and Lawrence, he said: “Three ringers. That’s great. It’s fun.”
“Don’t Look Up” was written and is being directed and produced by Adam McKay, who also directed the movie “Vice.”