Filming At Stadler Road, Winn Brook On Knightley-Led Boston Strangler Movie Set For Dec. 6

Photo: Yes, this Keira Knightley will star in “Boston Strangler”

Hollywood is returning to Belmont.

This time two locations in the Town of Homes will be in the spotlight as 20th Century Studios will spend a day filming its crime story about the Boston Strangler.

“Back to Belmont after we had such a good experience on Defending Jacob, said Ryan Cook, the supervising location manager for the movie. “Defending Jacob” was the 2020 TV Mini-series film on Belmont Hill starring Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery that Cook also served as location manager.

Stadler Road was selected from 65 other locations as it’s “an iconic street for this movie [as it] really set the tone of Boston in the 1960s,” said Cook. “It’s beautiful, it’s not overdone. It fits in the world we are trying to create.”

The actual house to be featured is a prototypical garrison colonial built just before the start of the Second World War. Cook also noted the scene being filmed on the street is the exterior of the lead character’s house “so nothing bad is happening there.”

The Winn Brook Elementary will be transformed into a Boston Police district station. Belmont Light will be assisting in the production by switching the modern street lights with

Dec. 6th will be a long and busy day: plans call for filming on the street to begin at 9:30 a.m. with the final wrap around 11 p.m. while the Winn Brook will be used for a “quick exterior scene” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Approximately 100-120 actors, crew and support staff will be involved with the production that day.

A tent will be installed on the Winn Brook playing field a few days before filming for the catering crew and support services, said Cook. Barriers will be set up on the street to prevent any non-essential traffic and neighbors cars will be allowed to park on side streets. He also said the production company will rent the driveways on Stadler and some on Waterhouse Road where they can place vintage early 1960s autos.

The production company asked for about 110 parking spaces in the nearby Claflin Street Municipal Parking lot while also using Arlington’s St. Paul’s Church as an additional lot.

Cook said all those involved with film are required to be vaccinated for Covid and are being tested three times weekly.

“We are running a tight operation on that front,” Cook said.

“This being a one day shoot, I anticipate things to go very smoothly,” said Cook, who said meetings with neighborhood residents went quite well. “Everyone is very excited about what we’re doing.”

As for a postponement? Cook said unless there is a Nor’easter or typhon-like rain and wind, like the old adage says “The show must go on.”

And the town will not go home empty-handed. The production team is donating $2,000 to the Recreation Department for using the field to place its tent, $2,000 to the Belmont and the Belmont Center Business Association for use of the parking lot and a $5,000 rental fee payment to the Winn Brook school.

So, what’s the movie about? The firm is helmed and written by Chris Ruskin who directed Crown Heights starring LaKeith Stanfield. A press release from the production company provided a synopsis of the film:

“Based on the infamous Boston Strangler murders, this is the true story of Loretta McLaughlin, the first reporter to connect the murders and break the story of the Strangler. She and fellow reporter Jean Cole challenged the sexism of the early 1960s to report on the city’s most notorious serial killer and worked tirelessly to keep women informed. Loretta pursued the story at great personal risk and uncovered corruption that cast doubt on the true identity of the Boston Strangler.”

While Cook would only tell the Select Board the film had a “recognizable name” attached to the production, he actually let the cat out of the bag to the Recreation Commission earlier in the evening, telling them international mega-star Keira Knightley (Bend It Like Beckham, Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black PearlPride & Prejudice, Atonement, The Duchess,  Anna Karenina, The Imitation GameColetteOfficial Secrets) will portrait McLaughlin.

Others in the cast announced Wednesday, Nov. 17 include Carrie Coon (who starred in cable’s The Leftovers written by Belmont’s Tom Perrotta and the films The Nest and the recently released Ghostbusters: Afterlife) Alessandro Nivola (The Many Saints of Newark) and Chris Cooper (last seen in Little Women).

Just before the town voted unanimously to accept the fee payments and approve the filming, resident Bill Anderson speaking during the public comment session revealed his inner Ari Gold by suggesting the Select Board request a cut of the royalties as the production crew acknowledged the “intrinsic value” the town brings to the production.

When Select Board Chair Adam Dash attempted to politely ignore the suggestion, Anderson balked.

“Every actor in this production is gong to get paid. Why won’t we get paid?” Anderson inquired reminiscent of the scene in Jerry Maguire, then asked for a mention at the film’s end. Cook said the days when the caterers and second assistant to the director were end-of-the-movie credit worthy are long gone while noting the production company is paying for parking and rentals.

“We aren’t asking the town to expend any money,” said Cook.

But Anderson countered, feeling the town had “something of value that we should consider asking compensation for … above and beyond the incremental costs of what we are laying out in order to make this happen.”

While Anderson’s felt Belmont is an important asset to the production, his position lacks anything resembling leverage since the location manager could find another ideal New England backdrop in a nearby town in the matter of day or the producers can just write out the scenes.

While not as busy as, lets say, Los Angeles, Belmont has had its fair share of movies filmed in town: Otto Preminger’s 1963’s The Cardinal, (on a street car along Belmont Street) the original The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) filmed at the Belmont Country Club, The Judge (2014) with Robert Downey Jr. and My Best Friend’s Girl (2008) featuring Arlington-native Dane Cook in Belmont Center.