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Royal Oak

Hollywood legend films scenes in Royal Oak barber shop

July 16, 2008

ROYAL OAK — When Clint Eastwood’s latest film, “Gran Torino,” hits theaters in December, St. Clair Shores resident Creith Bennett is likely to be one of the first in line.

“I’ll be there for sure,” the 17-year-old said in the early afternoon July 18 while standing on 11 Mile Road waiting for a glimpse of Eastwood as he filmed a scene for the movie at Widgren Barber Shop, 204 E. 11 Mile Road.

Bennett and his mother Bonnie were among the first to set up shop to watch filming for the day, arriving at 7:45 a.m., hoping to meet Eastwood in person.

“Oh the things a mom will do for her son,” Bonnie said, as the temperature rose to nearly 90 degrees by noon.

Creith Bennett, wearing a Clint Eastwood T-shirt, said he is a big fan of the actor/director.

“What he can do is amazing,” he said. “His acting, his directing.”

The Oscar winner has been shooting scenes for the film in various locations throughout metro Detroit, including Grosse Pointe Park, Center Line and Gross Pointe Shores. Eastwood, 78, is producing, directing and starring in the film in which Eastwood’s character is a disgruntled Korean War vet that sets out to reform his neighbor, a young Hmong teenager who ends up stealing his 1972 Gran Torino, according to the Internet Movie Database.

Frank Mills, the son-in-law to Ted Widgren, owner of the barber shop, said the business was approached and told the shop was selected for the scene out of 60 barber shops in the region.

“They said the liked the antique look inside,” Mills said.

The barber shop itself was founded in 1938 at the location of what is now Memphis Smoke, but later moved to its location just west of that near Center Street in 1970. Widgren himself was busy, Mills said, because Eastwood asked him to be in the barber shop scene as an extra.

“The crew has just been extremely nice,” Mills said while taking a picture of the action.

It was like a double feature for Sarah Lemein of Ferndale, who emerged from her yoga class to find the shoot taking place. She lives on the same street where filming for the movie “Youth in Revolt,” starring Michael Cera, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard and Jean Smart, is taking place.

“This is a lot of fun,” she said. “It seems like everywhere I turn there’s another movie.”

A small crowd watching the filming swelled to more than 75 as lunch hour hit. Eastwood made several short appearances outside of barber shop, shooting scenes of his character walking out of the shop to his beat-up old Ford pickup truck.

The filming slowed traffic in the area, as it has to be stopped for three to five minutes at a time when the shooting is taking place, Lt. Gordon Young of the Royal Oak Police Department said.

Royal Oak itself has become no stranger to the movie business either — as just recently a Lifetime original movie, “Prayers for Bobby,” starring Sigourney Weaver, shot multiple scenes in the city.

“It’s been exciting,” said Young. “We haven’t had one complaint from businesses.”

City Manager Tom Hoover said, as was the case with “Prayers for Bobby,” the production company making the movie is paying for overtime for police and is compensating the city for loss of revenue on parking spaces.

“The movie takes nothing away from normal services,” he said.

The sudden influx of movies is a result of legislation passed earlier this year by the state, giving large tax breaks for movies to be shot in Michigan.


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