Bringing Worcester One Step Closer to Being the Next Hollywood!
By Rachel Shuster
Worcester’s had its share of proud moments. There have been visits from United States Presidents, a culturally diverse population that continues to grow, a host of acclaimed colleges, and historical landmarks. It is a thriving city that continues to seek new goals. Now, there’s a new reason to have even more city pride as Worcester hosts the filming of a major motion picture.
In the last week of May, shooting took place for the movie The Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis and Radha Mitchell. The movie, based on the graphic novel by Robert Venditti, is directed by Jonathan Mostow and produced by David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, and Max Handelman.
The sci-fi thriller’s plot centers around two FBI agents (Willis and Radha) as they investigate the unsolved murder of a college student who’s connected to an inventor of a high-tech surrogate phenomenon. People are able to purchase perfect robotic versions of themselves and have them assume their roles in life. This enables the humans to live life vicariously from the ease and protection of their own homes. The murder, however, triggers the search for answers. When the world is made up of proxies for humans, how can one tell what’s real or fake?
So why did a huge Hollywood motion picture set its sights on good ol’ Worcester? Publicist Ernie Malik explains our city’s appeal.
“The location is what drew us,” says Malik. “It is a far distance, but it served the purposes of the movie. We are really excited to get to film in Worcester.”
Malik has been a publicist for the past 20 years and in the business for 34. Needless to say, he knows his stuff.
Through research and investigating, and although there had been many other options, including building a sound stage in Woburn, the decision-makers decided on Worcester, specifically the old Vocational High School, which serves in the film as a college dormitory, and the old court house, where most of the shooting took place.
“We built sets inside the location to use as the FBI headquarters, etc. We also shot one scene outside,” Malik says. Why the court house? Malik recalls, “It had the look and availability we needed. As soon as we went into the building, we immediately knew that it was it.”
Malik explains how Worcester is definitely becoming more desirable as a location for shooting major films.
“Massachusetts has become one of the busiest states in making films,” he says. “Worcester is now on the map for hosting Hollywood motion pictures. It is a visual medium and has a great base. There is an aggressiveness to attract people to Worcester.”
Another reason why Massachusetts has spawned an interest in hosting films is because it has the best tax credit in the nation.
“We didn’t have to pay a monumental fee to shoot here,” Malik says. “It was a minimal price, which was nice.”
So did Worcester natives get any taste of the limelight? Malik says that some might be in the movie, but only due to having responded to the usual casting call. However, the Worcester police contributed to the movie by serving as security on location.
As for seeing the stars around Worcester, Malik informs Pulse that the cast and crew did experience some Worcester culture.
“The crew and some of the cast would go out after shooting to eat around the area, go for karaoke, Irish bars etc,” says Malik. The crew was spread out in numerous hotels in Worcester. Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, and the other stars of the movie were not seen all that much, as they often didn’t stay in Worcester after shooting.
Although Worcester was the movie’s home for a short while, Malik says that significant additional filming will take place in Boston, and some in places like Taunton, Hopedale, Cambridge and Lynn. Filming began in late April and will wrap up in August.
As natives, we’ve always known what Worcester has to offer, but it’s exciting to see that Hollywood is catching on. So as you’re lying back in your chair, eating popcorn and watching The Surrogates next year at the theater, you can be proud that Hollywood heavyweights have shared your Worcester home!
Photos (Top to bottom):
Radha Mitchell (left) and Bruce Willis (right), both pictured from previous roles.
Graphic novel “The Surrogates”
Movie still of “The Surrogates”