Phillip Noyce has directed movies in plenty of rough situations, and so far, he thinks filming in Central Kentucky is a pretty pleasant proposition.
The film is titled Above Suspicion, maybe; the buzz around the set Thursday indicated that the name might be changed to Blood Mountain. The movie is based on the story of Mark Putnam, a former FBI agent who confessed to killing his informant girlfriend in 1989 in Pike County.
Although the temperatures and the humidity spiked simultaneously last Thursday, Noyce, his crew and several of his actors were shooting a series of scenes that involve a car-truck chase and several actors running down a slope on foot (with guns, or at least convincing facsimiles). The scenes were being filmed around a bridge on Peacock Road in rural Bourbon County, substituting for Pike County, where the action actually occurred.
Because the area around Peacock Road is so tight, there was no room for the small city of trailers, trucks and vans that accompany the movie wherever it goes. They had to be parked on a farm miles away, and a shuttle service run to the Peacock Road site bringing people, equipment, water and Popsicles.
Noyce, who directed Angelina Jolie in Salt and Harrison Ford in Patriot Games, said Kentucky, “is not that difficult yet, after having been in Louisiana in the summer, or Australia in the summer.”
The Putnam story is intriguing, Noyce said, because Putnam himself “had grown up on hard times in his own way,” like Susan Smith, the murdered informant.
“The element that united them both was ambition,” Noyce said.
On Wednesday, the movie was filming in downtown Paris around the Bourbon County Courthouse. On Tuesday, it had filmed at the Lexington Herald-Leader building, where the fourth-floor conference room got a spiffy institutional 1980s green paint job. Eventually the production will move to Harlan for a few weeks.
Producer Colleen Camp, a popular actress during the 1980s (They All Laughed, Clue), said that she had been trying to get the story of Putnam, the agent, and Smith made for 20 years, since a friend gave her a copy of reporter Joe Sharkey’s book on the case, Above Suspicion.
Yes, the film stars English actress Emilia Clarke, the Mother of Dragons on Game of Thrones. No, Clarke wasn’t on set Thursday, but she was shown trying out her Appalachian accent in a recent interview with talk-show host Stephen Colbert: “Ahm kinda e-in that aksaynt raht naow,” she told him. (Translated: “I’m kind of in that accent right now.”)
Her co-star, Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire), also required a dialect coach to teach him to speak like a Connecticut native. Huston grew up in England and sounds like a young Hugh Grant when he’s not in character, although he is the grandson of legendary American director John Huston (The Maltese Falcon) and the nephew of actress Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family).
On Thursday, Huston and actor Josh Mikel spent much of their time sprinting. A car repeatedly came shrieking onto the bridge, stopping within inches of a pickup truck; production manager Julie Hartley said the car will need new tires by the end of the shooting day. Huston and Mikel, playing a Pike County policeman, ran down the slope off the bridge and split off so that Huston veered into the woods.
“Let’s see you!” Noyce called out to Huston. “Jack and gun! Jack and gun! Hold it up!”
The actors did the sequence again.
Behind them was an army of crew members, and some of them were mighty surprised to be in their old Kentucky home. Huston’s personal assistant is from Corbin, but she wanted to disclose nothing more except that Huston is a nice fellow to assist. Cameraman Harry Garvin has roots in Carlisle, where he plans to be based in the future. He never thought he would be filming a movie so close to home.
“Whoever thought, of all the places I’ve been in the world, I would come back to Fayette County and Bourbon County?” Garvin said.