By Megan Alley,
Sun staff –
Local residents turned out in droves to catch a glimpse of movie stars Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek as the movie production, “The Old Man and the Gun,” filmed in the village of Bethel on April 4.
The film crew shot at Wichard Oil, located at 518 Plane St., during the morning. The full-service gas station, which is still in operation, had been turned into the fictional Barksdale’s Auto Repair for the movie.
Rita Schaeffer, of Bethel, and her mother Carol Starrett, of the village of Peebles, had posted up along the street in front of Community Savings Bank, located 503 W. Plane St., directly across the street from where the film crew was shooting.
“We’ve been out here about an hour,” Schaeffer said. “We wanted to see the movie stars.”
She added, “We already saw Robert Redford once. It was exciting.”
She went on to describe what it’s like have a big movie production film in her hometown.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “It’s like this town you never hear of; it’s pretty neat.”
The film, which is directed by David Lowery, who recently directed, “Pete’s Dragon,” is described as, “An elderly bank robber, who had managed to escape from prison over a dozen times in his life before moving to a retirement community, looks to spice things up with another heist,” according to the Internet Movie Database website.
It’s set to be released in 2018 and also stars Casey Affleck, Elisabeth Moss, Tika Sumpter, Danny Glover and Tom Waits.
Mayor Alan Ausman said only recently heard about the movie production coming to Bethel.
“To be honest, many people knew about it before I even knew about it,” he said. “The pastor of my church knew about it before I did.”
He added, “I think that they were planning on filming in Cincinnati, and probably somebody just drove through Bethel and saw Wichard’s, and thought that would be a good location.”
Later in the day, the movie production was scheduled to move to the old Midway Theater, located at 210 W. Plane St.
“It’s like something I never thought that would happen in Bethel, to be honest,” Ausman said. “I think it’s kind of neat.”
About three weeks ago, Ausman drove around the area with one of the movie’s location scouts.
“The first thing he said to me was, ‘The directors in California want a cornfield for a car chase,’” Ausman recounted. “I said, you’re going to have to let California know there are no corn fields this time of year in Ohio.”
Ausman hopes the movie production sheds a positive light on Bethel.
“I just think that the recognition and the prestige of it, I think that maybe people will see the film and say that’s cool that it was filmed in Bethel,” he said. “I’ve lived here my whole life …, and a lot of people don’t even know that Bethel exists.”
He added, “Maybe it will put us on the map some.”
Village officials have had a lot of impromptu meetings lately in preparation for the movie production.
Bethel Police Chief Mark Planck and Sergeant Steve Teague have been meeting with the production staff to discuss road closures and security methods.
“The production staff is paying for our police officers to provide beyond their regular duty,” Ausman said. “They’re paying them to do crowd control and road closure and stuff like that.”
Plane Street was scheduled to be closed later in the day from 4 to 11 p.m.
Ausman hoped the movie production would bring added foot traffic to businesses in Bethel.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of people coming into Bethel to see this thing go on, and I think that some of the businesses will have an influx of people coming into town,” he said, adding, “Certainly, just bringing people to Bethel to see it, I think it’s going to really give a shot in the arm to the businesses; I hope it does anyway.”