Lights, camera... Cape?

Saturday, July 16, 2005
John Madden, right, the director of the upcoming movie "Killshot," walked out of the Missouri Dry Dock & Repair Co. in Cape Girardeau Friday after touring the site for potential filming of the movie in Cape Girardeau. Others in the tour group were from left, producer Richard Gladstein, Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney and local author Morley Swingle and first assistant director David Webb, in the background.

"Killshot," the 1989 novel by acclaimed author Elmore Leonard, tells the story of a married couple who find themselves in Cape Girardeau while on the lam from a pair of hitmen.

While the local connection grabbed headlines, few could have suspected then that being mentioned in a book might one day lead to a hot-shot Hollywood director bringing an entourage of filmmakers to town.

Hollywood, it seems, is full of surprises.

On Friday, a crew of Hollywood directors and producers took a five-hour tour of Cape Girardeau to scout potential filming locations for a movie version of "Killshot," which is currently in preproduction.

The Miramax film is set to star Viggo Mortensen ("Lord of the Rings"), Diane Lane ("Unfaithful"), Mickey Rourke ("Sin City") and singer Justin Timberlake.

The crew -- including director John Madden, best known for his Academy Award-winning film "Shakespeare in Love" -- was in Cape Girardeau to determine whether it would be more feasible to shoot portions of the film here or in Canada, where production costs are much cheaper.

Madden and his crew visited places Friday that were actually mentioned in the book, such as Missouri Dry Dock, West Park Mall, now Westfield, and several residential areas in town where the lead characters set up house as part of the federal Witness Security Program.

After the tour, Madden's first impression seemed positive.

"Fascinating visit, nice town," Madden said in his slight British accent.

But first impression's may mean nothing when weighed against Hollywood budget restraints.

"It's a long way from certain," said Jerry Jones, director of the Missouri Film Commission, who also was on the tour. "They're here to decide whether or not to do it here or somewhere else. We're hoping they do it here. We've put our best food forward. Now it's a creative and business decision."

Their decision may not come for several weeks, Jones said, though some trade publications list a release date of 2006.

Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle was also on the tour. In 1987, Swingle met Elmore Leonard, who has written 40 grim and violent crime novels, including "Get Shorty," "Be Cool" and "Hombre," which were also made into movies. Swingle met Leonard and had dinner with him when Leonard was here to research "Killshot."

"He'd picked the name only because he wondered, 'What is a cape doing in the middle of the United States?" Swingle recalled.

A movie would bring excitement to Cape Girardeau, Swingle said.

"It would be thrilling," Swingle said. "We would have recognizable names of famous movie stars in town. We would have the buzz and excitement of a really once-in-a-lifetime event occurring in our town. It would be so exciting to our community."

It also could be profitable.

The best-case scenario would mean a large film crew and slew of actors, who would stay in area hotels, eat in local restaurants and perhaps shop in area stores, said Chuck Martin, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, who hosted the tour.

"The economic impact stands to be huge," Martin said. "The potential on the high end is great. But even if they just come down and do some site location shots, there would be an impact."

There's no way, Martin said, to gauge the city's chances of actually landing a major role in the film, though.

"We do feel positive about the visit," he said. "We think they all left with positive impressions of Cape Girardeau. Now it comes down to business logistics."

Madden's crew included a list of directors and producers with impressive credentials. Richard Gladstein, who will serve as producer, has produced 17 other pictures including "Finding Neverland," "Pulp Fiction" and "The Bourne Identity." First assistant director David Webb has worked on "Dark Water," "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" and "Taking Lives." Andrew Jackness has been a production designer on "Reckless," "In the Gloaming" and "Prelude to a Kiss."

Madden has directed productions for the theater, radio and film. His best-known pictures include "Shakespeare in Love," "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" and "Mrs. Brown."

"These were some seriously big names," said Dr. Jim Dufek, a mass communications professor who teaches television courses at Southeast Missouri State University.

Dufek was on hand to shoot video of the scenes to send to Madden later. He said it's hard to say whether they'll chose to shoot here.

"They're still on a scouting mission," Dufek said. "Canada's the hot choice for a lot of productions because it's so cheap up there. But they made a big effort to come here. They really seemed like they wanted to bring a lot of authenticity from that book."

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