One of Hollywood’s brightest stars shone Wednesday on Main Street Fort Macleod.
Matthew McConaughey was in town to film a scene from his new movie “Interstellar.”
The presence of McConaughey caused a stir in Fort Macleod, bringing people out to Main Street with hopes of catching a glimpse.
“He’s right near the top,” said Bella Gunderson, who with friend Kirra McGill staked out a front row seat on Main Street, of McConaughey’s star quality.
The two teens were rewarded in their quest when the personable McConaughey first waves to the girls and later flashed them a thumbs-up.
Their was an experience shared with hundreds of local residents and visitors who showed up to watch the filming of “Interstellar,” or “Flora’s Letter” as the movie is also known, a science fiction movie about explorers who travel through a worm hole into another dimension.
Set in the future, corn is the last crop to be cultivated on earth and the scientists embark on a journey through a worm hole into other dimensions in search of somewhere other crops can be grown.
The scene filmed in Fort Macleod involved McConaughey’s character driving a truck along Main Street between Second and Fourth avenues.
“The scene was of the main character (McConaughey) driving, trying to outrun a dust storm which eventually catches up to him and overtakes the truck in the town,” location manager Laszlo Uhrik said. “So as you can imagine there was quite a lot of thinking about how to make this work.”
Uhrik said Fort Macleod proved the perfect location for the scene.
“It’s not everywhere and anywhere that you can do it,” Uhrik said. “I think there would be places like large cities, for example, where it would probably be impossible to do something like this.”
Uhrik said Fort Macleod has an interesting layout with its well-preserved historic buildings and strategically-placed parking lots and empty spaces for storage.
The Fort Macleod and District Sports Centre and Macleod Curling Club, with their large parking lot, also factored into the decision to film here.
“All these factors go into making a place very film friendly and accessible,” uhrik said. “It becomes a very easy place to shoot, and that was our experience.”
Uhrik said many factors are taken into consideration when choosing a movie location beyond the look of the place.
“While we first thought of filming this scene in Black Diamond and Nanton, none of those locations worked logistically,” Uhrik said. “The look was good, but not logistically. With some scheduling changes Fort Macleod became a possibility.”
“Beyond that, I think the most important thing is the look of the location and this was a very nice fit into the visual scope of what the director envisioned.”
Crews were in Fort Macleod on Tuesday to set the stage, distributing a biodegradable product meant to replicate sand along Main Street in preparation for the scene.
As the pickup driven by McConaughey with actor John Lithgow as a passenger drove down Main Street, the movie crew used large fans to stir up a dust storm that seriously reduced visibility.
A large cloud of dust could be seen hanging over Main Street when the cameras were rolling.
“I think it went extremely well,” Uhrik said. “The filming went without a hitch. The weather was perfect for what we wanted to do. The effect of the dust storm that we wanted to create, given the conditions, turned out extremely well.”
The dust storm worked better than expected.
“We were obviously prepared and counting on a very large clean-up afterward,” Uhrik said. “We knew what we were in for. It turned out to be a little bit bigger than what any of us actually anticipated, but that’s just the nature of film production. Everything gets bigger once you start shooting.”
Most businesses on Main Street remained open all day and pedestrian traffic is allowed during breaks between filming.
Uhrik praised Fort Macleod business and property owners, as well as residents and town staff, for their co-operation.
“The co-operation from the people on the street was tremendous,” Uhrik said, noting the fact other movies have been filmed here played a part. “This was not something new to them.”
“The majority of the folks, if not all of the folks, were completely behind the project and very collaborative in everything.”
Filming the scene was not without incident. The amount of dust became an issue as it carried on the wind.
“This dust is film dust,” Uhrik said. “It’s a very special, particular material that was developed to be used for this effect.”
The dust is cellulous-based and biodegradable, and travels well.
“The problem is that it goes all over the place,” Uhrik said. “Half the town had some varying degree of dust falling on the buildings and so on.”
Main Street and the nearby businesses got large amounts of dust, some of which was sucked into air conditioning systems. A generator at Hansen’s Family Foods failed as a result and some product in a cooler was lost.
The film crew oversaw those repairs and provided compensation for the lost product. They also contracted a company to service every air conditioning unit on Main Street, replacing filters and belts and cleaning the systems.
Crews also laboured into the night on Wednesday and on Thursday morning to clean Main Street.
“That’s always the thing that I want to achieve,” Uhrik said. “My job as the location manager is to make the filming as painless and as effective for everyone, including the filmmaker but also the local people and shop owners who are directly affected by the production.”
Uhrik toured Main Street Friday with Town of Fort Macleod municipal manager David Connauton to show where problems occurred and how they were solved.
“Every time we shoot somewhere I want to make sure that we do leave the town as clean as we found it, or cleaner and that we take care of every issue that arose from us being in the community,” Uhrik said. “I would love to be invited back if I have another job that I can bring to Fort Macleod.”
Mayor Shawn Patience welcomed the presence of the movie crew in Fort Macleod.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Patience said. “Any way to get our name out there.”
“Interstellar” also stars Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine and Casey Affleck.
The movie is to be released in November 2014.