Homebody actors good for California business


Hollywood stars are fighting back against runaway production, though for personal rather than patriotic reasons.

New Line Cinema's "Rendition," being directed by Gavin Hood, is a globe-spanning political thriller centering on a Cairo-based CIA analyst who finds his world spinning out of control after he witnesses the interrogation of a foreign national by the Egyptian secret police. Jake Gyllenhaal has signed on to play the analyst, and Reese Witherspoon will portray the foreign national's Chicago-based pregnant wife.

Matching its story line, the movie has shoots planned around the world, with locales in Morocco, South Africa and Washington being prepped. The movie was to have also shot in Toronto, where Hollywood movies often relocate, but now will shoot beginning next month in Los Angeles.

The reason? Witherspoon.

Witherspoon did not want to go to Canada, insisting that she remain close to her family, which includes husband Ryan Phillippe and their two kids.

"She's got a family, she wanted to stay here," a source close to the production says.

In accommodating Witherspoon, New Line rearranged the shoot so that Los Angeles will double for Chicago and Washington and provide most of the U.S. interiors. Even some of the North African interiors might be filmed here.

According to the California Film Commission, there is a definite decline in studio film production in California. Between 2003-05, about 25% of productions were shot entirely in the state. "In '06, we are projecting that number will go down to 11%," the commission's Amy Lemisch says.

If officials want to fight to keep productions closer to home, they might find no better allies than homebody actors with clout.

In her new memoir, "Killer Life," producer Christine Vachon writes about how, when making 2002's "Far From Heaven," Julianne Moore agreed to sign on to the movie, accepting its low-budget wages, but wanted the production to switch from Toronto to New York because she wanted to be close to her husband and son. The filmmakers wanted Moore, and the location was switched, though the budget shot up $1.5 million.

Stars have exerted their power before in order to work close to home. David Duchovny grew so tired of Vancouver during his many seasons of shooting "The X-Files" that he strong-armed the series to move to Los Angeles for its sixth season. One of the few actors to move a production for patriotic reasons was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who insisted that "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" be made in California. Tony Shalhoub brought "Monk" to Los Angeles after its first season. And Adam Sandler tried to shoot as many scenes as possible of the Hawaii-set "50 First Dates" in California.

The "Rendition" news sent waves of joy throughout the community of location managers and local film commissioners, who cheered the somewhat rare reversal of having a production come back into California.

"We applaud celebrities who ask for feature and TV production to stay home," FilmLA president Steve MacDonald says. "However, policymakers need to come up with real incentives. We can't rely on the goodwill of celebrities to keep production here."