In Montgomery on Wednesday afternoon, Albert Finney and Jessica Lange held hands and smiled for the cameras. They were followed by Ewan McGregor, who posed with a young boy.
The stills, taken in front of the closed Cloverdale Junior High School that is now the film company’s headquarters, were merely the preamble to a much larger shoot. Director Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” begins shooting Monday in Wetumpka and will continue filming in and around Montgomery through the end of April.
While Finney, Lange and McGregor posed for shots that will be used as photographs in the film, they are far from the only stars who are already in Montgomery preparing for the beginning of the shoot.
Billy Crudup and Helena Bonham Carter, two of the movie’s previously announced stars, are here, as well as former “Benson” star Robert Guillaume and French actress Marion Cotillard, who have just joined the cast.
Guillaume and Carter are here temporarily for wardrobe fittings, but will fly back later for filming, as will other stars, such as Danny DeVito, Steve Buscemi and Alison Lohman, who starred in “White Oleander.”
Not only were new stars mentioned Wednesday, but so were new locations.
Eileen Peterson, production publicist for the film, said that while most of the film will be shot in the Montgomery and Wetumpka areas, the company will spend several days shooting in Tallassee and at Auburn University.
“The entire film will be shot within about a 40-minute radius of Montgomery,” Peterson said.
And she means the entire film. When it was announced in August that the movie would be shot here, it was believed that Burton would do location shooting and then finish many of the inside scenes at a Hollywood sound stage. But Peterson said the entire production will be shot in Alabama.
Shooting for “Big Fish” will begin in Wetumpka and continue there throughout the week, and then will move on to Tallassee, Peterson said.
Alabama Film Office Director Brian Kurlander has called the Columbia Pictures film a redefining event for the film industry in Alabama. And financially, he said the film would have an estimated $25 million economic impact on central Alabama.
Burton, the 43-year-old who has directed such films as “Edward Scissorhands,” “Batman,” “Ed Wood,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Mars Attacks” and “Planet of the Apes,” is adapting the movie from former Alabamian Daniel Wallace’s novel “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions.”
The story concerns a son (Crudup) who returns to a small Southern town to get to know his dying father (played by both Finney and by McGregor in flashbacks). It is through his father’s tall tales that the son begins to understand the elusive man.