, Gloucester, MA

April 17, 2008

Hollywood East Stars invade North Andover for comedy

By Crystal Bozek

NORTH ANDOVER — It's a star-gazer's paradise — that is if you can be patient.

Workers at Osgood Landing learned that they're going to need a little more time than a mere lunch break if they want to catch a glimpse of a movie star this week.

Actors Tina Fey, Rob Lowe and Jeffrey Tambor were all filming at the former Lucent building yesterday, but were not escorted onto the closed set until all of the gawkers — or workers — were back in their offices and the parking lot outside their trailers was practically empty.

They are shooting the Warner Bros. comedy "This Side of the Truth," which has been filming throughout the Merrimack Valley this spring.

Producers have rented part of the building through Monday, so while people weren't so lucky yesterday, there's still a chance for a celebrity spotting.

"Where are all the celebrities?" Jennifer Rodriguez said, disappointed at only seeing a swarm of extras on a smoke break as she strolled around the building about 1 p.m. "I wanted to see a celebrity."

The sprawling, vacant brick building once used by Lucent Technologies off Route 125 keeps attracting movies and commercials. Osgood Landing housed a couple sets for Cameron Diaz's latest film, "The Box," back in November.

Ellen Keller, vice president of commercial real estate for Osgood Landing, has taken to calling the 1.5 million-square-foot complex "Hollywood East."

"This Side of the Truth" also shot in Lowell this week, and is set to take over Haverhill's Merrivista Senior Community on May 6 through 8.

The producers had also been looking at locations in Andover.

Ricky Gervais, a British comedian best known for his role as David Brent in the BBC original version of "The Office" television comedy series and the recent HBO series "Extras," co-wrote the script and stars in the comedy.

It is about a world where no one has ever lied, until a writer, Gervais, seizes the opportunity for personal gain — using it to romance a character played by Jennifer Garner.

Gervais had revealed on his blog that big-time actors such as Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Christopher Guest, Jason Bateman and John Hodgman will all have parts in the movie. However, he is expected to be the only major star filming in Haverhill.

The actors appeared to be shooting an office scene yesterday on the building's third floor.

Extras on the set wore their best business attire — a lot of tailored suits, sweater vests and Bluetooth ear pieces, and on the women, the requisite black or brown pumps.

When her time came, "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" comedian and writer Tina Fey walked across the parking lot joking with the crew. Rob Lowe, on the other hand, wore a more serious look, sporting a pair of thick-rimmed black glasses, trying to avoid a photographer's camera.

The stars' trailers lined the building's right-hand parking lot, which was also full of more than a dozen equipment trucks, white vans used to transport the extras and cranes holding gargantuan lights aimed at the third-floor windows.

The buzz among Osgood Landing employees started as soon as they saw the trucks roll in. Then the yellow "set" signs went up.

People who never take walks at lunchtime were now craving some fresh air.

Workers would walk by slowly, looking everywhere for that glimpse of someone "big" in the sea of extras that were waiting outside for vans. A few curious people drove up and sat in their cars nearby, waiting to see something.

"You don't see this all the time," said George Rollins of Lawrence, who stopped at Lucent to check out the scene after his friend called him. "My friend said there were lights out here. I thought maybe they were shooting outside."

The comedy is set to hit theaters in 2009.

There's another movie in the area, too. Disney is shooting "The Proposal," starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, in Rockport. Dock Square and parts of downtown have been transformed into the Alaskan seaport village of Sitka.

Film facts

About the upcoming movie "This Side of the Truth"

Studio: Warner Bros.

Starring: Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Ricky Gervais, Louis C.K., Jonah Hill

Genre: Comedy

Plot: A world where no one has ever lied, until a writer seizes the opportunity for personal gain.

Local filming locations: Osgood Landing, North Andover; Merrivista senior citizen residence, Haverhill.

Directors/writers: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson