Writer/director David S. Goyer liked Chicago so much while on set for "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" he returned to direct his horror movie "The Unborn."
He got more than he bargained for."We had an earthquake while we were filming an exorcism scene, which was awesome," said Goyer during a recent set visit on Chicago's Northwest Side.
"Unborn" stars Odette Yustman ("Cloverfield") as a young woman haunted by her unborn twin and Gary Oldman ("Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban") as a rabbi who tries to help her. In mid-April, while Goyer shot scenes of Oldman performing an exorcism, the crew got a surprise.
"We were filming all night. ... We have chandeliers and things shaking and wind. We actually have this shaker device: The lead character is strapped into a gurney, and it starts vibrating," Goyer remembers. "So, we're doing all that, and we stop filming -- and then things are still shaking."
Goyer, who shares story credits on Christopher Nolan's lauded Batman films, also wrote screenplays for "Dark City," "Jumper" and the "Blade" trilogy, for which he directed the final installment. For Goyer, an Ann Arbor, Mich., native, "Unborn" was a chance to return to the Midwest. The production, which started March 5 and wrapped up principal photography Monday, filmed on location in Chicago's Sound-Bar nightclub, on Wacker Drive, on Loyola University's Rogers Park campus and in Kankakee's Shapiro Developmental Center.
Goyer shot in a shuttered wing of the former asylum, which provided its own set of challenges.
"That was possibly the most unpleasant place I've ever filmed," Goyer says. "There was no heat; the place was really dusty. It had been sealed off for I don't know how many decades."
When the crew first arrived, "there was about 2 inches of raccoon feces everywhere," Goyer says. Asbestos had to be removed, as well as lead paint.
"It was filthy. You'd come home at night and black tar would come out of your nose. You can't get that in L.A. It's the best," Goyer jokes.
Goyer came up with the idea for "The Unborn" in Chicago while visiting his wife, Jessika Borsiczky Goyer, who was producing Steven Conrad's forthcoming comedy, "The Promotion."
"The other thing that was driving it was, there are two or three A-level crews in Chicago," Goyer says. "And once I learned that we could get one of the better crews, I told Universal I wanted to lock in Chicago. In fact, I committed to Chicago without even scouting locations, because I'd been here so much."
While here, Goyer visited the Lincoln Park Zoo, a favorite childhood destination, and the restaurant Avec. It also gave Goyer a chance to connect with Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick.
"I've hung out in his studio a couple times, and his studio has sorta been a haven for me," Goyer says. "Chicago had everything I needed. It was where I wanted to go."
"The Unborn" is slated for a 2009 release.
Director Steven Soderbergh began filming "The Informant" in Illinois this month, with locations in Decatur, Springfield and (briefly) Chicago. Based on journalist Kurt Eichenwald's book of the same name, "The Informant" stars Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, a corporate vice president at agriculture company Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).
Whitacre -- who suffers from a bipolar disorder -- became an unlikely whistle-blower in a price-fixing case against ADM, which led him into a spiraling path of self-destruction. Eddie Jemison, a Soderbergh regular with theater roots in Chicago, co-stars.
Mary Woronov, star of cult classic "Death Race 2000," appears Saturday at the Music Box's Sci-Fi Spectacular 2, presented by Rusty Nails' Movieside shingle. More than 14 hours of programming include "Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn"; "Island of Lost Souls"; "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"; "Robocop"; and Ray Harryhausen's "Earth vs. The Flying Saucers." Tickets available at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., for $20, or in advance for $16 at ticketweb.com. Visit musicboxtheatre.com.
Woronov will also be on hand Friday for a screening of "Rock 'n' Roll High School," featuring The Ramones, presented by Chicago Public Radio's syndicated music talk show, Sound Opinions. Host-critics Greg Kot of the Tribune and the Sun-Times' Jim DeRogatis will discuss the Roger Corman-produced B-movie with Woronov, who played Principal Togar in the film. Visit soundopinions.org.
Billed as "the Mt. Everest of Mother's Day movies," 1981's Joan Crawford biopic "Mommie Dearest" screens Sunday at the Music Box Theatre, in collaboration with Dick O'Day and Hell in a Handbag Productions. At 2:30 p.m., patrons are encouraged to dress in Crawford gear (read: shoulder pads and thick eyebrows) for a look-alike contest. Festivities include a performance by rock band The Joans and a separate, special Mother's Day brunch at Violet before the screening ($20). Movie only, $12. "Mommy Dearest" starts at 3 p.m. Visit musicboxtheatre.com.
Chicago filmmaker/critic Bill Stamets steps into the spotlight Friday with an evening dedicated to his political coverage films. Stamets' short films "Iowa and its Presidents," "Presidential Appearances" and "Primary Visibility" span elections from 1988 to 1996, captured with Super-8 and Hi-8 cameras. The screening at the Nightingale Theater, 1084 N. Milwaukee Ave., starts at 8 p.m. Suggested donation: $5.
The Chicago Short Film Brigade hosts its second annual "Dance Derby Fundraiser Spectacular" at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, beginning at 10 p.m. Saturday. Proceeds will fund the Brigade's shows and annual award. Suggested donation at the door: $10. Visit filmbrigade.com.
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*indicates a capsule review from Chicago Tribune archives.
40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston
*'The Bicycle Thief' 4 stars (Italy; Vittorio De Sica, 1948). De Sica's simple Italian art-house flick about the impoverished Roman worker who has his bicycle -- his only means of transportation for his job putting up movie posters around town -- stolen and who then combs the city with his young son, desperate to find it. 1 p.m. Sat.
*'Pee Wee's Big Adventure' 3 1/2 stars (U.S.; Tim Burton, 1985). A whimsical farce version of "The Bicycle Thief," done with the effervescent charm and invention -- and some of the secret sadism -- of the great silent comedies. 3 p.m. Sat.
1517 W. Fullerton Ave.
'Monster Camp' 3 stars (U.S.; Cullen Hoback, 2007) How much audiences will like "Monster Camp" may depend on their ability/need to abandon their everyday personas for weekends of fantasy dress-up and battles. The campers are Seattle-area aficionados of the role-playing game NERO, a live-action version of "Dungeons and Dragons" or the online phenomenon "Worlds of Warcraft." As a non-gamer, I had a hard time tracking all the obscure rules of the game (despite helpful intertitles), and many of the players recall the Comic Book Guy on "The Simpsons." However, the film has a heart for its subjects. As one of the contestants puts it: "One of the best gifts you can give yourself is simply to go and pretend." Plays Fri.-Thu. -- Maureen M. Hart
No MPAA rating; parents cautioned for violent play and language.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times