News Column

Jazz biopic 'Bolden!' returning to Wilmington for filming

July 12, 2014

By Hunter Ingram, Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.



July 12--For the local film industry, "Bolden!" is a tale of legend.

A biopic chronicling the life of pioneering jazz musician Buddy Bolden, the elaborate, music-driven independent film first began production in March 2007, with hotel heir Dan Pritzker acting as writer, director and financier.

After a costly initial shoot, several weeks of reshoots in 2010 and more than seven years of uncertainty, the film is finally headed back to Wilmington with one goal in mind: finishing production.

As early as February 2007, local crews began construction on the film's jazz age-era sets at EUE/Screen Gems Studios, where the film would go on to occupy about 42,000 square feet across three stages on the lot. While most of the filming was done on the lot, crews shot scenes in the Castle Street antiques district, Airlie Gardens and St. Andrews-Covenant Presbyterian Church.

During filming, actor Anthony Mackie filled the lead role of Buddy Bolden, a real-life cornet player in early 1900s New Orleans who is credited as a leading figure in the creation of the jazz genre. Following a wave of popularity, Bolden's sanity crumbled and he spent the final years of his life in an asylum before passing away at the age of 54.

Before "Bolden!" production wrapped in September 2007, Pritzker took on a side project, filming a black-and-white silent film titled "Louis," documenting the formative years of Louis Armstrong, who is a supporting character in 'Bolden!" Upon finishing "Louis," Pritzker had an epiphany.

In a recent interview with Deadline, he revealed it was at this time he came to the realization that he wasn't happy with the direction of "Bolden!"

"Obviously, I've had a steep learning curve, and I just decided that I wanted to tell the story in a different way than I had captured it," Pritzker told the website in May.

In May 2010, Pritzker returned to Wilmington and restarted production for six weeks of extensive reshoots on several scenes. This time around, crews spent only a little time at the studio, instead heading out to film scenes on Market Street and other local areas. During the short recurrence of production, extras were frequently seen walking around the area in early 20th-century clothing.

Following those reshoots, the film was put back on the shelf where it has remained unfinished, along with the period sets that still sit in storage in Wilmington.

At a Wilmington Regional Film Commission Board of Directors meeting in May, the first sign of life from the film in four years came when film commission director Johnny Griffin revealed the production had expressed interest in returning to film once again.

Jon Cornick, producer of the film, confirmed Friday that filming is expected to resume in the area later this year, but specifics are still being hammered out.

"It is actually very exciting (to resume filming)," Cornick said. "Right now, we are focused on filming here in Wilmington and finishing the movie."

Mackie's star has risen since he first tackled his "Bolden!" role -- he most recently appeared in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" -- and he won't return for the reshoots. Deadline announced that British actor Gary Carr, who did a stint on "Downton Abbey" early this year, will step into the role, although the filmmakers have not confirmed any new casting.

While Mackie's scenes will need to be filmed again, Cornick said this year's filming won't be a "total reshoot" because some previously shot sequences can still be used.

He also said that filming will be concentrated somewhere other than EUE/Screen Gems but has yet to confirm what he called an "alternative space."

Though many details are still up in the air, Cornick said returning to Wilmington was an easy decision.

"The infrastructure that is here, with the crew and facilities, is very important," he said. "We love Wilmington and we are excited to set up shop here."

Hunter Ingram: 343-2327

On Twitter: @WilmonFilm

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(c)2014 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.)

Visit the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.) at www.starnewsonline.com

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Source: Star-News (Wilmington, NC)


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