Tarantino on the set of Death Proof, circa 2007. (Photo courtesy Dimension Films)
Big Hollywood feature to film in and around Mammoth
Mammoth has been in movies and on TV many times, but outside of some fairly high-profile national commercial productions and a few small screen appearances, it’s been nearly a decade (longer by some estimates) since a big feature was shot in the area. But all that is expected to change with the impending arrival of a new Quentin Tarantino picture that’s expected to spend a week, possibly two, shooting in Mammoth’s snowy climes.
Django Unchained is described as a “western drama” from director Tarantino. According to a synopsis: with the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter (Django) sets out to rescue his wife from Calvin Candie, a brutal Mississippi plantation owner. The Weinstein Company and Sony Pictures are co-producing the planned 2012 release.
The rumor mill has, not surprisingly, been cranking out a lot of speculation, but according to local film sources, the only stars in town at the moment are those to be found in the night sky. According to Film Mammoth’s Cleland Hoff, gossip about seeing movie crews working in town is only partly true. None of the principals are here yet, but Hoff said that even though the production company has been very hush-hush about the film so far, “We’re going to have some very notable people here in town before long.”
Indeed, stargazing could soon mean catching a glimpse or two of some of cinema’s biggest names. As listed on IMDBPro.com, the cast includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jamie Foxx (in the title role of Django), Anthony LaPaglia and Don Johnson, among many others.
Hoff said she’s been in on conversations with Town of Mammoth Lakes staff, Mono County Film Commissioner Alicia Vennos and Location Manager for Mammoth Mountain Ski Area Steve Morrison. As she understands it, Tarantino won’t be shooting the whole film here, just selected scenes.
The production will be shooting in the area behind Chairs 13 & 14, which will likely be closed off at that time. The production, she noted, is “working hard to reduce the impact of the crew” and plans to keep the location fairly contained. Morrison will handle location chores for Mammoth Mountain. The only other shooting location known so far will be somewhere along the Mammoth Scenic Loop, but the actual location hasn’t yet been determined.
Meanwhile, some of the production team is in town doing advance work. The art and construction departments are building exteriors and other set pieces.
Hoff is hoping to contract some of her Film Mammoth liaison services to the production, but in any event, she’s overjoyed at the prospect of Mammoth landing such a big film fish, especially given the historically more costly choice of shooting in California. Lately, however, some recent tax breaks, as well as a loose alliance of sorts between many producers and directors vowing to keep production more local, could mean more of this level of film could be dropping anchor in the Eastern Sierra.
“Even it’s only a week to 10 days, the shoot will have a tremendous effect on the local economy,” Hoff opined. Having such high-caliber stars and Hollywood power players in town will go a long way to helping us build a great film-friendly community, she added.
DiCaprio, one of film’s most sought-after actors, can be seen this fall on the big screen in Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar,” about the turbulent and controversial life of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Tarantino, meanwhile, has established his own signature in-your-face filmmaking style, and racked up numerous smash hits including “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” the “Kill Bill” series (Vol. 3 is in development) and more recently 2009’s Oscar-nominated “Inglourious Basterds.”
“I’m hoping they’re given the real Mammoth treatment,” Hoff suggested. “If we’re cool, and treat them with respect, we’ll get more and more production. I’ve seen the boom happening up here in the last couple of years or so, and it shows no sign of letting up, so we should definitely make the most of it. If we work at it, we could have a decent decade of making and presenting a smart, trendy place to shoot.”
“Django Unchained” is expected to start production in early December, and projections indicate that Mammoth’s part of it will go before the cameras on or about the third week of December.