Movie #8216;Honeydripper#039; to be filmed in Butler County

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 8, 2006

Hollywood is returning to Butler County this fall. After Greenville’s brush with fame last year as the premiere city featured in ABC-TV’s reality game show, &uot;My Kind of Town,&uot; the cameras will once again focus on the Camellia City and its sister communities.

The Alabama Film Office (AFO) and Butler County Commission for Economic Development (BCCED) announced on Friday two-time Academy Award-nominated writer/director John Sayles will direct his next film, titled &uot;Honeydripper,&uot; in Butler County this September.

After scouting locations in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, Sayles and his producer, Maggie Renzi, decided central Alabama would be perfect for the period film.

&uot;Honeydripper,&uot; set in the early 1950s, focuses its story on southern blues musicians. Danny Glover, star of such notable films as &uot;The Color Purple&uot; and &uot;Lethal Weapon&uot; and its sequels, is slated to star, along with famed blues guitarist Keb’Mo and legendary blues vocalist Ruth Brown.

&uot;We’ve been working on this project for a while. There were some delays due to financing. We are really excited to see it finally coming together,&uot; BCCED Director Ricky McLaney said.

The film is slated to shoot on location for approximately four months in the Forest Home Community, downtown Georgiana and Greenville.

The pre-production team will be in Butler County next week, McLaney said.

&uot;The team will be very busy with a long list of things to do, such as setting up phones, leasing apartments, houses and taking care of other things in advance of the actual shoot.&uot;

The filmmakers will also be looking for vintage vehicles, including cars, trucks and tractors that can be used in the film.

The Alabama Film Office (AFO) contacted McLaney after the filmmakers were initially unable to find the exact look needed for the movie.

&uot;The whole scouting process changed once we contacted Ricky McLaney,&uot; Tommy Fell, location coordinator for the AFO, said. &uot;We were scouting Butler County and explaining the look we needed for the primary location of the film. Ricky drove us to the area that was immediately chosen. Scouting and choosing your location is a big, big part of making a film.&uot;

Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon and area businesses have been working with the filmmakers on logistics for filming this fall.

&uot;We are excited about this project coming to Greenville and Butler County, and I look forward to our citizens being part of this film,&uot; McLendon said.

Director Sayles, who is noted for such critically acclaimed films as &uot;Eight Men Out,&uot; &uot;The Secret of Roan Inish&uot; and &uot;Lonestar,&uot; is one of the most respected writer/directors in the film industry as well as an author of short stories and novels. He has frequently worked as a script doctor for many Hollywood films. Renzi had worked with Sayles as a producer for more than 20 years.

Fell said working with the team of Sayles and Renzi will offer the state a chance to work with two top independent film icons.

&uot;John Sayles and I are really looking forward to working in Alabama,&uot; the producer said.

&uot;For us, making a film on location is not only a job but a way to explore different communities as more than ordinary tourists. With ‘Honeydripper’ as will all our films, we will do our best to introduce a worldwide audience to Butler County, a place many have never visited. We can’t wait to get started.&uot;

Fell said, &uot;John Sayles and Maggie Renzi have produced films that are inspirational, heartwarming and educational. Their choice to film this project in Alabama is as important as any project we have landed and once again shows the importance of filmmaking in this state.&uot;

This is not the Camellia City’s first time serving as a location shoot.

The 1994 made-for-TV movie, &uot;The Vernon Johns Story,&uot; starring veteran actor James Earl Jones, also filmed on location in Greenville, using such downtown landmarks as the Alabama Grill.

The town’s southern charm also inspired the writers of the Reese Witherspoon comedy &uot;Sweet Home Alabama,&uot; The duo stayed at the former Martin House Bed and Breakfast and visited local spots while working on the hit movie’s script.

&uot;I think this movie is going to be a big, big thing for us. It will also be a wonderful tie-in with our city’s blues festival in October,&uot; McLendon said.