Filming of The Deer Hunter

Wheeling Intelligencer
July 25, 1977

Theaters Pushing for 'Deer' Premiere

By Janet Boyle
The Intelligencer Staff

Most of "The Deer Hunter" film crew this weekend left the Upper Ohio Valley after four weeks of shooting but local theater owners and city officials are working to arrange a possible area premiere of the film.

Though "nothing is definite yet" for a local premiere, a spokesman for the Cinemette Corporation which owns several area theatres said Steubenville Mayor William Crabbe and the city Chamber of Commerce are "working on it."

"No definite plans have been made" for a local premeiere, according to Mike Cardone, vice president of operations for Cinemette Corp. in Pittsburgh. Negotiations are "only in the talking stage."

Cardone refused to speculate on chances for the premiere, but said if Cinemette is awarded the premiere it probably would be held at the Cinema Theater, Hollywood Shopping Center, Steubenville.

Another local theater chain owner said he too would be "delighted to host 'The Deer Hunter' premiere."

John B. Gardner, owner of Gardner Theatres, Wheeling with several northern panhandle theaters, said he believes there is only "an outside chance" of obtaining the premiere, but added "we'd love to have it if the producer so decides."

If awarded the premiere Gardner said he probably would hold it at the Plaza Theatre in Weirton.

Meanwhile, most Mingo Junction residents are anticipating a speedy return to everyday life in the wake of several weeks of excitement caused by "The Deer Hunter" filming.

A film spokesman Thursday confirmed the crew will spend about six days shooting in Cleveland before travelling west to Washington state to shoot hunting sequences.

Bangkok, Thailand is the final stop for the filmmakers before the tedious editing process is begun.

Physical changes made to Mingo Junction by the filmmakers probably will not be noticeable after a few weeks, but the experience of watching a major motion picture being filmed in their home town will not fade quickly from residents' memories.

Some 250 area residents can claim the distinction of making a movie with Robert De Niro since casting agents used as many local people as possibly to give the film "an air reality."

Producer John Peverall said he believes painstaking casting methods used in "The Deer Hunter" will contribute to the film's success.

"To make a successful motion picture good casting is important," he said. "Not just the major roles - the minor roles are just as important to enjoyment. The crowd casting in this picture is absolutely fantastic."

It's a rare person who didn't wander to the Commercial Street set at least once to watch the filming or catch a glimpse of the stars, but interest in the filming seemed to drop off quickly after the first week.

Hundreds of people crowded the area near Welsh's Lounge to watch nothing more exciting than a car-truck stunt scene being filmed. After the first week principal actors were able to walk almost unhindered and unnoticed from trailers to the set as residents fought the heat wave at local pools.

Area residents interviewed said they found Robert De Niro patient and courteous if somewhat aloof; he allowed instamatic cameras to snap in his face almost every time he stepped from his trailer and signed autographs for most who requested them.

Actor John Cazale moved quietly through the crowds, talking with extras, signing autographs or providing cool drinks for hot reporters. Many failed to recognize Cazale on sight, but seasoned movie-goers recalled his performances in "The Godfather" and Dog Day Afternoon."

Less familiar to area residents were actors John Savage and Christopher Walken. Many saw Savage last week in the title role in a television presentation of "Eric", the story of a young man dying of leukemia.

Christopher Walken appeared with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Allen's "Annie Hall."

Local businessmen apparently felt the effects of film production in the area; a film spokesman estimates some $2.5 million was spent in the immediate West Virginia-Pennsylvania-Ohio area while filming took place.

"Housing, construction, caterer's costs, transportation, materials and personnel account for most of the amount," one source said.

Representatives of the Ohio Film Bureau were unable to confirm the figures but promised to publish an account of the film's economic effect on the area as soon as possible.

Temperatures in the upper 90's made life uncomfortable for actors in their winter clothes, but did not present any real problems for film crews.

Producer Peverall said the $8 million production has not run into any difficulty largely due to cooperation among cast and crew members and "the cooperation from police, city mayors...and the local community."

The defoliated trees and specially browned lawns arranged by filmmakers to create the impression of autumn in the area have begun to show signs of recovery.

Other changes necessitated by the film will be wiped out in the next few weeks.

A mill gate constructed on property adjoining the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Inc. works in Mingo Junction will be removed, and cafe signs attached to two Commercial Street houses will be taken down.

The Gilbert-Empire Sign Co. of Steubenville, which last month engineered the change from Mingo Junction to "Clairton" at local companies, will begin restoring the original signs sometime this month.

But future visitors to the city may be surprised to find a "Clairton Laundromat" in the middle of Mingo Junction.

Homer Hilty of Gilbert-Empire Sign Co. said the laundromat's proprietor instructed him not to change the Clairton sign.

"I think he wants to keep it for a memento," Hilty said. "He told us not to change it back."

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