Eyes lit up with hope, cameras clicked continually and the region became obsessed with fame when Hollywood came to visit recently.
Regional NSW gets excited when Australian political figures drop in to “meet the people” so you can only image the frenzy when Hollywood star Angelina Jolie flew in on a commercial flight, literally out of the blue, to check out our corner of the world for possible locations for her upcoming movie. She liked what she saw and the rest is now film making history and fast turning into a local legend. For this, I personally thank her, even though the chances of her ever seeing, never lone reading this is minuscule. Thank you for the opportunity given to locals, the friendly and considerate way Universal Studios conducted business in our area and the much needed financial boost your choice gave our region. Most of all, thank you Angelina for the experience.
What brought her here? A place that I have often photographed myself. A beautiful railway station in the small town of Werris Creek around 30 to 40 minutes away from my home town, Tamworth. Well I think that was the main draw card but she finished using a number of locations in both towns before this part of the filming was wrapped up in mid December. It was amazing to see this town get excited about something not related to political PR or country music. It also gave locals an opportunity of a lifetime as the call went out for extras for the film, Unbroken.
Yes, I got caught up in the excitement, I won’t lie. Just the casting call was an amazing opportunity. The last time I remember this chance offered to our region was when an Australian film, The Picture Showman, was filmed here in 1977. My mum wouldn’t let me go to auditions but it was still very exciting to think you could see the likes of Aussie actors John Meillon and Garry McDonald in the town I lived in. I didn’t.
I didn’t actually see Miss Jolie either, although many did and by all accounts she was lovely, patient and accommodating to fans who were lucky enough to meet her. In all honesty, if Brad had been here too I might have made a bit more of an effort but alas, he wasn’t. Sorry Angelina.
Unlike my own mother, I encourage my children to have a go when opportunity knocks so we rocked up for the auditions in Quirindi in October this year. For all but one of us it was more a bit of a lark to see what it was like. Not surprisingly I was the first to get a very polite phone call were I was told thank you but so many applied, sorry you weren’t chosen. It was the nicest rejection I’ve ever received it pretty cool to receive a call from Universal Studios, never imaged I would get that in my life time. However my second son was chosen to be in the film for which I am extremely happy. His study of entertainment and drama meant he wanted seriously to be part of this. That was in November and when the crews arrived in early December, the region took up a newfound sport of celebrity spotting.
I inadvertently discovered a way to upset a newspaper photographer that I work with at this point. I bumped into him as he was heading out to one of the Tamworth filming locations and I quipped about him taking on a paparazzi role. He missed the quip as he jumped to bite my head off while explaining what he saw as the difference between news photos and those taken by paparazzi photographers. When photos of the sets and the action was strictly forbidden and those being taken were sneaky, hopeful distant shots through telescopic lenses I struggled with his logic but decided to keep my mouth shut because he was obviously sensitive about the subject.
Many people’s behaviour got a bit strange at this stage as some took early lunch breaks or time off work to go look at the action. I even heard of locals who had family and friends stay with them over the short period the filming was in process so they could go from location to location in hope of getting a glimpse of the lovely Miss Jolie.
I actually felt a bit sorry for her as she was just trying to get the job done and she and the crew had to contend with people stumbling over each other for a view. But the security and people involved, by all accounts, remained patient and polite. Don’t know about you but I get frustrated with interrupts when I’m focussed on the job at hand and I don’t have hoards of people wanting to watch me while I’m doing it, never lone wanting to meet me.
Many reported to me Angelina appeared to have lost a lot of body weight as stick think arms protruded from the loose fitting clothing she wore with supermodel style and I think every woman in the region is looking for a broad brimmed hat like the one she wore on a daily basis on set. Thin or not, she looked spectacular, cool, calm and collected.
Some reported she had her children with her, I don’t know if that is true but it made me think of her in a new light. An amazing working mum working long hours in a foreign country. I complain about the hours I work and the lack of time I have to spend with my kids but the early mornings and late nights she was putting in here are only a part of what she is accomplishing.
Lucky for me the day my son was involved in the filming was the first day of my holidays and I could spend a bit of time with him and looking around the changes made to Werris Creek for the film. It was great to see it firsthand. The railway station looked amazing and the railway carriages used were classically beautiful, I didn’t think any of their type still survived in Australia. I have other photos of the train station set but I’m not going to publish them because you have to wait to see the film.
Unbroken, directed by Angelia Jolie and filmed in Australia, is due for release December 2014.