Photo provided by Leon Zielinski
By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer
CENTER LINE — “Dirty Harry” made everyone’s day July 15 when he filmed a scene for his upcoming movie in Center Line.
Actor/director Clint Eastwood and about 125 crew members took over the Veterans of Foreign Wars Richard Menge Post No. 6756 on Sherwood Avenue to shoot footage for the upcoming movie “Gran Torino.” Crews arrived Monday evening to prepare for Tuesday’s shooting schedule.
“They changed the lighting, put in booths,” Mayor Mary Ann Zielinski said. “They set it up the way they wanted it for the scene. It was quite a spectacle.”
The tinsel of Hollywood thrilled the post members and Zielinski’s husband, Leon, a big fan of Eastwood’s movies. Leon bumped into the Hollywood icon at one point during the day.
“He got a chance to talk to his hero, his idol,” the mayor said.
Zielinski also spent a few minutes with Eastwood. The two have a common bond: Eastwood was mayor of Carmel-by-the-sea, Calif., from 1986-88. Zielinski acknowledged his public service accomplishments in a letter she wrote and presented to him Tuesday.
“He was extremely gracious and soft-spoken,” she said.
According to IMDb, “Gran Torino” tells the story of Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) who tries to reform his neighbor, a young Hmong teenager, who attempts to steal his 1972 Gran Torino. The movie is reportedly due in theaters in late 2008 or early 2009.
The news of Eastwood’s visit to Center Line was kept low-key. Zielinski couldn’t even watch any of the filming, although she did view one scene on camera featuring Eastwood’s double.
“It looked just like him,” the mayor said.
When speaking with a crewmember as to why this particular post was chosen, Zielinski was told, “It was the size we wanted and it just had the feel we needed for this film.”
“I’m really proud of the guys (at the post) we got up there, it just made them so damn proud,” Zielinski said.
Post Cmdr. Jerry Gorski and post member Marty Kraft are in the scene with Eastwood, portraying poker players. Gorski said it took nearly eight hours to film the scene because so many different angles were shot. Props included fake beer, an ashtray and a deck of cards.
“When (Clint) first walks in, we’re sitting at the table,” Gorski said. “Here’s a legend. He’s been in so many movies. Just to be in the same room was just an honor. It’s a lifetime of memories in one day.”
Other actors are in the scene, including one actor playing a priest who stops by to visit Eastwood’s character. The priest reportedly promised the late wife of Eastwood’s character he would check in on him.
Before leaving town, the crew let the post keep the booths that were used in the scene, as well as other props. Post members also gave Eastwood proclamations and a U.S. flag to thank him for using their hall.
Filming also occurring in other parts of metro Detroit, including Grosse Pointe Shores, has temporarily put a few Michiganders back to work.
On shooting day, Zielinski talked to a laid-off truck driver. Movie crews hired him and several other unemployed truckers to work with them until August. Zielinski also had a conversation with an emergency medical technician who is freelancing for the film crew, and receiving more pay than she would normally receive.
“Although it’s short term, it does pump some money into the economy,” the mayor said.
“(The state) gives the film industry an incentive with tax credits or rebates on anything they do here,” Zielinski said.
Zielinski said the moviemakers leased about 40 vehicles to haul equipment over to the V.F.W. hall. Money is also being spent elsewhere locally.
“All the food is bought fresh from local vendors,” she said. “They are providing jobs. They are spending money while they are here.”
“They paid us to use the post for three days,” Gorski said.
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