|A&E Mini-Series "The Andromeda Strain" Shoots in Hedley|
|Friday, 31 August 2007|
The hamlet of Hedley was overrun by a Hollywood film crew in July and is still reeling from the experience. "It was pretty memorable - partially for the chaos," said Wilson Wiley, owner of The Hitching Post restaurant, which was a sort of home-base for the crew and actors of The Andromeda Strain. "They were filming all the way down Main Street ... it was neat having them here." While he kept his restaurant open during the filming, Wiley said he found business was down due to streets being closed to sets - but the film company reimbursed affected businesses.
The Hitching Post, like other buildings on Hedley's main drag was converted to represent the 1940s. In addition to having all supplies needed to change the look of the town, crews were also prepared for the unforseen. "There was a big windstorm and the power was out for half a day," said Wiley. "But they had all their own generators so that didn't bother them. One guy said they had enough power with them to power the town for a year."
Although the restaurant wasn't shown in detail, Wiley said a camera was set up inside to shoot through the restaurant windows. But it wasn't that way for all Hedley businesses. The Hedley Country Market, just a stone's throw from the restaurant, played a bigger role. They filmed a scene in here where a guy cuts off his head," said owner Doug Bratt, adding the crews kept the store exactly the same except for some product placement. Bratt also got a role in the film. "I played a dead guy," he said with a smile, adding he was filling in for a Kelowna actor who had left for the day. Other locals also had the opportunity to be extras in the film, portraying the dead.
Stars like Benjamin Bratt, Rick Schroeder, Christa Miller and Eric McCormack are all involved in the production. While McCormack, who was not in town for the filming, may be a well-known celebrity through his work on the popular sitcom Will and Grace, the people of Hedley were starstruck by the celebrities that were present. "They were just like normal people, they were nice," said Wiley, adding Bratt was especially gracious in posing for photos and signing autographs.
Film crews had mutual admiration for the community. It was the town's natural beauty and enthusiasm of residents that drew the production team to Hedley.
"The production team loved the dramatically beautiful remote small town look of Hedley coupled with the excitement and willingness of the people of Hedley and the region in general to make this large film work," said Okanagan film commissioner Sara Shaak.
The Andromeda Strain is based on the book with the same name by Michael Crichton, the famed author of Jurassic Park. The story revolves around a mysterious virus arriving on Earth through a satellite. The only survivors are a baby and an old man. A team of scientists take the pair to an underground laboratory in hopes of finding a cure before the world is destroyed. The Andromeda Strain was originally seen on the big screen in 1971. This production is created for American television network A&E.
Kamloops and Vancouver were also used to film the miniseries. While it's unclear how much footage involving the Similkameen Valley will be saved from the cutting room floor, the town is still going to benefit from the publicity. "I think it's increased people's knowledge of the area because they hear about the filming and come to town to see where it was," said Wiley. This isn't Hedley's first time in the movies. Malone, filmed in 1987 and starring Burt Reynolds, was shot on location in the small town as well as 2001's Sean Penn-directed film The Pledge.
The Andromeda Strain is set to be released in 2008.
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