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November 5, 2004

Beatty sees stars - briefly


The Cook Bank Building in Rhyolite looks like it did 40 years ago, after the crew filming "The Island" removed additions made in 1964 by another film crew.
Hollywood came to Beatty last weekend for filming of DreamWorks and Warner Brothers' science-fiction and action feature, "The Island," starring Ewan McGregor "Star Wars: Episodes I and II," and "Moulin Rouge," "Big Fish" and Scarlett Johansson "Lost in Translation," and "Girl With a Pearl Earring," under the direction of Michael Bay "Armageddon," and "Bad Boys I and II."

The story is set about 20 years in the future. Lincoln Six-Echo (McGregor) and Jordan Two-Delta (Johansson) are residents of a controlled-environment facility hoping to be chosen to go to "The Island," supposedly the only uncontaminated spot left on earth.

Then he discovers the truth, that they and the other residents are clones awaiting "harvesting" to be used for spare body parts.

The two of them escape, and are pursued by the forces behind the institute that created them. Djimon Hounsou "In America," and "Gladiator" is the head of the team sent to hunt them down. Steve Buscemi "Ghost World," "Armageddon," "Big Fish," "Fargo," and "The Usual Suspect" is an institute employee who befriends them, and Michael Clarke Duncan "The Green Mile," and "Armageddon" is a fellow clone who is selected to go to "The Island."

Filming began Oct. 25 at Eagle Mountain, near Palm Desert, Calif. While in Beatty, the crew of approximately 125-150 helped fill every available motel and hotel room in town. They filmed in Death Valley, at Rhyolite, at the Cind-r-Lite mine near Lathrop Wells, and on Farm Road in Amargosa Valley.

After leaving Beatty, filming was scheduled to move to downtown Detroit.

Access to the closed-set production was tightly controlled, and visitors to Rhyolite were turned away during filming. While at Rhyolite, the crew used the Barrick Bullfrog site as its base camp.

Those familiar with the Cook Bank Building, the tallest of the ruins in Rhyolite, will notice a change in its facade. Wood and plaster trim and metal railings that were added for another movie "The Reward" back in 1964 were removed for the DreamWorks production, returning the windows to their original appearance.

Caretakers had worried for years that the window dressings might fall and injure or kill a visitor. Oddly enough, when they were removed, the one that looked most likely to fall was found to be firmly anchored, and the one that looked secure practically fell into the workman's arms when touched.

The Beatty area, Rhyolite, and the Amargosa Valley have been used by many movie crews over the years, among them (with years they were released) "Air Mail" (1925), "Rough Riders Round-Up" (1939), "The Reward" (1964), "The Hitcher" (1986), "The Arrogant" (1987), "Cherry 2000," "Midnight Run," and "Homer and Eddie" (1988), "Never Leave Nevada" (1990), "Delusion" (1991), "Ultraviolet," "Painted Desert" and "Ramona!" (1992), "Tall Tale" (1995) and "Strip Show" (1996).

There have also been a number of student films, TV commercials, documentaries, and other productions shot in the area, including an HBO comedy special with Steven Wright.

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