Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Travel

Stars come out in Florida for movie-making magic

Visitors to Florida can find a wide assortment of theme parks, world-class beaches and a slew of homegrown festivals. They may also see stars – A-list movie stars, that is – as film production gears up in the Sunshine State.

The latest Hollywood production setting up in Florida is the highly anticipated third installment in the blockbuster Iron Man franchise. Robert Downey Jr., playing Marvel's comic book icon, along with other actors and the host of other personnel involved in making movie magic, are to arrive this month in the South Florida area. According to reports and permit filings at the film offices in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, Dania Beach and Miami Beach will be two of the shooting locations.

Cast members expected to be on location in addition to Downey include Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley and Don Cheadle. Exact dates and where these stars will be staying are under lock and key, but chances are – and history indicates – these celebs can be glimpsed around town.

Plus, if certain scenes require extras, you just might be seen – in the movie. Watch local media for casting calls for "everyday folk."

Florida has a storied history of made-here movies, including Scarface, Caddyshack, Cocoon, Edward Scissorhands and 2 Fast 2 Furious, to name but a few. Industry leaders, along with government officials, recently updated regulations and incentives to grow the Sunshine State's movie industry and, in the process, boost local economies.

When Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment decided to cinematically tell the story of Winter the Dolphin, Clearwater Marine Aquarium's inspiring superstar, executive producer Steven P. Wegner was drawn to Florida by the chance to film with Winter herself. But Florida's new incentives, he said, were the proverbial icing on the cake to bring the entire production to Clearwater.

Cast members of Dolphin Tale didn't hide in their trailers, either. Harry Connick Jr., for example, frequently dropped in at local hangouts – Casa Tina's for nightly dinners, and The Brown Boxer to catch up on sports with his young co-star, Nathan Gamble. Many folks in the area used social media to report sightings of Morgan Freeman, often seen strolling the streets near the cast's hotel.

A release this past summer, Rock of Ages, was filmed in 2011 all around the greater Fort Lauderdale area – the same locale as for Iron Man 3. Based on the lauded Broadway musical, Rock of Ages recreated the famed Sunset Strip of Los Angeles on the streets of Florida. Even the famed Hollywood sign was reconstructed – on a landfill. Stars Julianne Hough and Tom Cruise often were spotted on the surrounding beaches.

And speaking of those beaches, they've been a sandy foundation for a long tradition of college spring breaks. That's why Harmony Korine, writer/director of 2013's Spring Breakers, came to Sarasota and St. Petersburg. With miles of those pristine beaches to work with, along with the opportunity to roll film at local colleges, he cast teen megastars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens in this tale against the backdrop of the annual college party week.

The local press documented multiple celebrity-fan interactions, with the starlets popping up at everyday places such as CVS and Walmart. James Franco, who donned corn-rows and gold teeth to play a street thug in the flick, was spotted out and about, too.

If you are fortunate enough to run into a movie star in Florida, keep in mind that they're working. Some of them may graciously acknowledge your "stalking" presence, but first and foremost they have to remain focused on the job. Be respectful, and keep the stars shooting in Florida.

This story was first published on VISITFLORIDA.com.

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