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Movie star’s son plays lead in bourbon film shot in a Kentucky distillery

Filmmaker Jonny Walls, a native of Wilmore, was interviewed by a local TV station about the film “Bluegrass Spirits,” which is to begin filming at Hartfield & Co. in Paris.
Filmmaker Jonny Walls, a native of Wilmore, was interviewed by a local TV station about the film “Bluegrass Spirits,” which is to begin filming at Hartfield & Co. in Paris. Andrew Buchanan

A new movie, “Bluegrass Spirits,” based on the bourbon industry and starring Jake Busey, is going to be filmed at the Hartfield & Co. craft distillery in Paris.

Busey, the son of actor Gary Busey, has been seen learning about bourbon at distilleries around the state, including Willett in Bardstown and Buffalo Trace in Frankfort.

Wilmore native Jonny Walls will begin filming this week and plans to continue through Nov. 1 at Hartfield, with several more one-day shoots through Nov. 5.

Walls said his goal is “to make a good Kentucky movie,” one that accurately reflects the state.

“I’ve been in L.A. for more than seven years and been wanting to bring a film back to Kentucky for a long time,” he said. “Bourbon is kind of an obvious choice. I’m actually surprised there haven’t been more films made about it.”

His movie “is steeped in bourbon culture, and there is a lot of cool bourbon authenticity as well.”

The plot revolves around a recovering alcoholic who also runs a distillery, Walls said. Busey plays the owner of the craft bourbon distillery, and the narrative also deals with mental and spiritual ghosts, Walls said.

According to a news release about the film, “Bluegrass Spirits” is only the second non-documentary feature film set in Kentucky’s bourbon industry, and the first to shoot here.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” which set a secret spy organization in the bourbon industry, was released in September. Despite having a tie-in with Brown-Forman, which released Old Forester Statesman, the movie wasn’t filmed in Kentucky, as one can tell by the cowboy hats.

To boost the authenticity of “Bluegrass Spirits,” Walls visited five Central Kentucky bourbon distilleries last year while researching his script. Filming is to take place at Hartfield and other places in and around Lexington. Bourbon expert Tim Knittel has been hired as a script adviser and technical consultant.

“Jake was asking a lot of questions and absorbing it all for character background,” Walls said.

Background footage has been shot at Bluegrass Distillers in Lexington and Barrel House Distilling in Lexington, Wilderness Trail Distillery in Danville, near Shaker Village and near High Bridge, Walls said.

Hartfield & Co. founder Andrew Buchanan said Monday that having the crew there is pretty exciting.

“They came last year, and started scouting stuff, and went to a lot of different places,” he said. The scouting visit came as Hartfield was moving its distillery into a new, bigger building at 320 Pleasant Street, which also has a bar, Prichard and Bail.

“So they have lots of room to do the bulk of the movie here. They’ve got a bar scene in the movie, and we have a cocktail bar,” he said. “There’s very little they have to do to make it look authentic.”

While the crew is filming, Buchanan said, the distillery will remain open.

“We’ll do tastings, ... but we won’t really be able to do a tour,” he said. Instead, he plans to “hang out and watch a movie being made.”

Walls said he hopes to finish the independent film this year and begin looking for festivals to show it. You can follow the movie at Facebook.com/bgspiritsmovie/ and at Instagram.com/bgspiritsmovie.

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