England, Boston on 'Maiden' voyage way


Producer Rob Paris describes "The Lonely Maiden" as reflecting an English comedic sensibility, reminiscent of such films as "The Full Monty" or "Billy Elliot."

"We are striving for that tone," he says. "Luckily, we were able to find like-minded people, from the director to the cast to the financier."

"Maiden" is a co-production with Yari Film Group, William H. Macy's Dog Pond Prods., Paris Film and Revelations Entertainment. Peter Hewitt is directing from a script by Mike LeSieur. Production began Nov. 12 in Boston.

The comedy stars Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken and Macy as veteran museum security guards who have become attached to the artwork they have watched over for decades. When they learn that the works are to be transferred to another museum, they come up with a scheme to steal them back. Marcia Gay Harden plays the female lead.

In addition to Paris, Bob Yari and Revelations co-founders Lori McCreary and Freeman are producing. Yari Film Group Releasing will distribute the film.

Paris says that this is not a typical comedy. "In the world of comedies today, what seems to be selling is big and huge and over the top. Sometimes they hit the mark and other times it goes flat, going for laughs for laughs' sake." he says. "This movie -- we went after an English filmmaker because this feels a bit like a vintage Peter Sellers comedy. It's subtle, but if it works, the laughs are so big. But they are not coming from a place where they are trying to make you laugh, they are coming from a situational place that is a little more sophisticated."

Paris describes how the production companies, cast and crew were introduced one by one to the script and the project and got excited.

"The movie came together actually the first time at the beginning of the year," he says. "We took the package to the market. Bob Yari was interested in the movie and came on board as the financier."

But then the modestly budgeted film, which was planned for shooting in Vancouver, hit a bump.

Says Paris: "For a couple of reasons, the production had to go on hold for a couple months. When we went back, we had to reconfirm our budget. Our Vancouver budget was still accurate, but when we recalibrated the U.S. dollar, which by that time had plummeted, we lost $700,000-$800,000 of our budget, which was a disaster."

From there, the team explored options, and the Bay State's newly revised incentive plan made Boston the perfect place for production. Massachusetts now has a competitive program in place, where productions that spend more than $50,000 in the state get back 25% of every dollar spent.

The locations were attractive to the filmmakers as well. "We were going to Vancouver and make it 'Any City USA,' but when we had a chance to go to Boston, we could easily incorporate Boston as a character in the movie," Paris says. The film will be shot at some of the city's iconic locations such as the Paul Revere Mall and the North End.

Coincidentally, another Yari Film Group project -- "Real Men Cry," starring Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke and Amanda Peet -- is an autobiographical drama set in, you guessed it, Boston. The story is inspired by the life of actor Brian Goodman, who shares screenplay credits with fellow New England native Donnie Wahlberg and writer-actor Paul T. Murray. "Cry" also marks Goodman's directorial debut.

Production began Monday in Beantown.