Dearborn serves as setting for movie production

Photo by J. Patrick Pepper

Photo by J. Patrick Pepper

Crew members for the upcoming thriller “Salvation Boulevard” adjust equipment between filming during a shoot at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center last Wednesday. Among the Hollywood stars who shot scenes at the Ford Center were Pierce Brosnan, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly

Sunday Times Newspapers

DEARBORN — The city got a taste of the bright lights last week when the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center was turned into a set for the movie “Salvation Boulevard.”

Based on a Larry Beinhart novel of the same name, “Salvation” delves into the clash of faiths through the lens of a murder mystery. In Beinhart’s own words “The corpse is an atheist professor, the accused is an Islamic foreign student, the defense attorney is a Jewish lawyer, the investigator is a born-again Christian. The Mystery is God.”

Beinhart is best known for his book “American Hero,” a political satire that inspired the 1997 dark comedy “Wag the Dog.”

Filming at the center took place during a three-day stretch and included scenes in the Hubbard Ballroom, the theater, gym and other ancillary space. To set the scene, stagehands temporarily switched the lettering over the facility’s west entrance from “Michael A. Guido Theater” to block letters reading “CHURCH OF THE THIRD MILLENIUM” as well as added a massive cross decal encircled by a tailing fireball on the soaring art-deco windows above.

On Wednesday morning dozens of crewmembers, production workers and actors shut down much of the center parking lot to film an outdoor scene. Later that day some of Dearborn’s finest got in on the act, as police cars with their flashers on helped provide optics for a car chase sequence that was shot on the access road in front of the Dearborn police station.

Among the actors who shot scenes at the center were “Salvation” stars Pierce Brosnan and Ed Harris, as well as supporting actors Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly and Jim Gaffigan, city officials said.

The crew is expected to be in town for about 28 days, according to a city press release. The company producing the film, Mandalay Independent Pictures, declined comment when reached by phone Thursday, saying only, “We don’t give out any information.”

The same city press release is behind the widely published — but false — reports that listed the University of Michigan-Dearborn and architecture firm Ghafari as other Dearborn filming locations.

UM-D Director of Communications Ken Kettenbeil said he was confused but pleasantly surprised when he read the reports. However, further investigation revealed that it was actually U-M’s Ann Arbor campus that would be used for some scenes.

“I was not sure where the information had come from at that point,” Kettenbeil said. “But when we found out they would be in town, I was the first to say, ‘Hey, did you know we have a campus here?’”

Ghafari actually was slated for a shoot until “Salvation” producers called and canceled just days ahead due to a scheduling conflict, a Ghafari spokeswoman said.

City spokeswoman Mary Laundroche said the information in the release was based on an old internal city memo that had listed some of the sites that were under preliminary consideration for shooting.

“We were under the impression they would be using those sites, based on the old memo by (Parks and Recreation Director Greg Orner), so it was included by accident,” Laundroche said.

She added that reliable information about movie shoots is often elusive due to the secrecy measures taken by producers. This case is somewhat special, Laundroche said, because it involved the rental of a city facility, which necessitated informing the public.

Other Dearborn establishments that were named as “Salvation” backdrops in the errant release include Miller’s Bar and the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn. A telephone call to Miller’s went unanswered as of press time, and the Ritz declined comment.

Production work for “Salvation Boulevard” is taking place at Unity Studios in Allen Park. It is scheduled to hit theaters in 2011.