The guy in question is surveying the corner of Marine Drive and 12th Street in Astoria, Oregon--and as far as I can tell, he's speaking to no one in particular. The streets are blocked off, and the sidewalks might as well be, with hundreds of locals and tourists rubbernecking and snapping photos. The source of their fascination is:
* A crane-looking thing with a camera on top slowly rising into the air;
* Some cars slowly creeping down Marine Drive;
* The crane-looking thing slowly lowering back down;
* The cars reversing, then slowly driving down Marine Drive again;
* The crane-looking thing slowly rising into the air again.
The disgruntled guy, predictably enough, grunts, "I don't even live here and I'm pissed." But all the same, he angles his head towards the action before wandering off. He's quickly followed by a huffy young woman.
"That was it?" she huffs. "They just filmed something? All of this... for that?"
The crane-looking thing lowers back down, the formation of cars slowly reverses, and the whole thing starts again.
"EEHT'S NAHT AH TOOMAH!"
I'd driven up to Astoria to watch location shooting for The Ring 2, the sequel to 2002's horror hit. This movie joins a prestigious list of films shot in Astoria, which includes Kindergarten Cop, Short Circuit, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Free Willy, and The Goonies.
Much to the inevitable vexation and disconcertingly strong anger of every single person I've ever met in my life, I have never seen The Goonies. As a preteen, however, I watched Kindergarten Cop approximately three times a day, so I feel pretty well-versed in the rich cinematic heritage that Astoria has to offer.
When I arrive at the Bayview Motel (which not only sports a view of the bay, but also a scenic Ford dealership), I find a small, quaint lobby decorated with a montage of Kindergarten Cop publicity stills. Imagine my delight when I discover from an informative Astorian tourist pamphlet that a Bayview Motel room had been used as the shooting location for none other than Schwarzenegger's "Detective John Kimble"!
I usually can't sleep in hotels, but as I lay swaddled in the Bayview's fine polyester linens and muse upon the heartwarming, mirth-filled lessons that Detective Kimble gleaned at this very motel, I drift into the deepest of restful sleeps. Allow me to break from journalistic objectivity for a moment to proffer this endorsement: the Bayview Motel is the greatest motel in the world, be it for undercover cops tracking down ruthless drug dealers by way of substitute teaching precocious kindergarteners, or for Mercury celebrity reporters scrounging about for a cheap, easy story.
ROCKIN' IT, HOLLYWOOD-STYLE
"The film takes place about six months after the first film," Alex Worman tells me. Before the crew began shooting their nighttime scenes, Worman, the unit publicist for both The Ring and its sequel, had agreed to give me a tour of the set.
In The Ring, Naomi Watts played a Seattle reporter with a really creepy-ass kid, who discovered a videotape that kills anyone who watches it--naíve schoolgirls died, murdering ghosts crawled around, Naomi Watts' creepy-ass kid drew some creepy-ass pictures, and there was a moderately unnerving scene in the bottom of an abandoned well.
In the sequel, Worman tells me, Naomi Watts' character packs up her creepy-ass kid and leaves Seattle "to get away from the horrors" of the first film and "start fresh in the sleepy coastal community" of Astoria. I suspect, however, there will be little starting afresh, and Astoria will probably be less than sleepy once Watts and her creepy-ass kid show up. Worman refuses to say anymore of the film's plot except for a vague-yet-promising "mayhem ensues."
Worman arranges for two folding director's chairs, and we watch the video monitors as they film exterior scenes for Naomi Watts' house in the film. I consider the benefits of shouting "Cut!" or bolting onto the set during the establishing shots for my 15 minutes of fame, but decide not to--and it proves to be a good move, since it turns out I'm sitting right behind... the producer of Garfield: The Movie!
Yeah, I met him, and sure, laugh all you want. But when I show up as "Derek 'Hollywood' Henderson, Celebrity Reporter," in Garfield 2: The Reckoning, you won't be laughing anymore. Oh, no. You most certainly will not.
HOW I MIGHT VERY WELL HAVE BEEN QUITE CLOSE TO THE SUPER-HOT NAOMI WATTS AT ONE POINT IN TIME, BUT THEN AGAIN, I'M NOT REALLY SURE
I've heard people on DVDs complain that making films is one of the most boring, drawn-out, and exhausting experiences one can have. It's far from any of those things--there's something about watching behind-the-scenes stuff that's inherently fascinating, even to a jaded, ennui-stricken celebrity reporter like myself--but it isn't exactly as exciting as I had hoped, either.
I hang around on the set for about three hours, during which I see all of five shots filmed... all of them about a minute or less long. There's an amazing amount of work, from the hordes of camera and lighting crews to the lone guy with a hose whose job it was to walk around and make the pavement look like it's been raining. (The big scene? Naomi Watts carrying her creepy-ass kid into an SUV, then taking off down the hill for a big shot that pans up to show the Columbia River. When I watch the finished film, Worman tells me, I'll probably be on the edge of my seat at this point--but out of sequence and with the film crew, it looks a lot like somebody walking out of their house, getting in their SUV, and driving off.)
But that's when the real excitement occurred. Between takes, and in the midst of grilling Worman about his other films (Star Trek: First Contact! Daredevil! The aforementioned Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles III! Awesome!), I see a flash of blonde hair and astonishingly tight jeans off to my right. Spinning roundabouts with whiplash fury and fully utilizing every finely honed journalistic power of observation, I see Naomi Watts hurriedly taking her place next to her character's SUV as the crew readies another shot.
So the question presents itself: Was Naomi Watts checking me out, but (like so many Hollywood starlets have proven to be with a certain Mercury celebrity reporter) too shy to make a move?
I present to you, The Facts:
About 30 feet away, Naomi is getting ready for the shoot, standing near the aforementioned SUV and in her aforementioned astonishingly tight jeans.
About five feet to my right, there's a young, blonde woman of Naomi's height and build, also wearing jeans. She, however--and here's the important part--looks distracted, and refuses to make any sort of eye contact.
Hence, my objective reporter's opinion as to whether Naomi was checking me out? Very likely.
For verification, I ask Worman what he thinks. "Not that I noticed," he says, but I sense panic beneath his placid exterior--his PR skills must be working overtime to try to squash this story before it's leaked to the tabloids.
"Sorry," he hastily adds.
Nice try, Worman, I think. Nice try, indeed.
THE CREEPY-ASS KID
After watching a few more takes of the SUV scene, Worman asks if I'm bored yet. I figure if Naomi is still too skittish to make her move, I'm not going to wait around for her to get her courage up. Worman accompanies me to a downtown Astoria parking lot (which Worman refers to as "base camp") where an astonishing number of trailers and semis are parked. On the drive, I ponder how laid-back the set seemed, and how, for one of the biggest horror films of next year, the whole visit was decidedly unscary.
But I ponder too soon. As we drive down into base camp, we pass a trailer with its lights on and its door open. Inside the door stands a short, towheaded silhouette; as we drive slowly by, the shadowy head turns to watch our van. While the dim light refuses to illuminate the scene, I'm pretty sure it's that creepy-ass kid, and I can feel his eyes upon me.
Isn't he still filming? I ask myself. Animal reflexes kicking in, my mind spins with confusion and terror, the urge to kick out the van's window, dive out, and run away becoming disconcertingly strong. What's he doing down here? How'd he get down here so fast? Why is he standing in the doorway like that? How can a seven-year-old be so menacing? WHAT'S HE GOING TO DO?
With shaking hands and a trembling voice, I bid a nervous adieu to Worman. Returning to the Bayview and finding meager solace in a Weinhards six-pack, I try to forget the terrifying image of the creepy-ass kid's silhouette, watching me as the van drove by. The dark image, burned into my retinas, refuses to give me peace. The way his head turned... the way the light shrouded his menacing features... how very short he was. Despite the guzzling of beer after beer and my repeated attempts to remind myself of Naomi's flattering (if futile) flirtation and the more whimsical moments of Detective John Kimble's uproarious duties as a "Kindergarten Cop," I don't sleep nearly as well as before I'd visited the set of The Ring 2.
No... not nearly as well at all.