Rhode Island Film & Television Office Executive Director Steven Feinberg confirmed on Tuesday that acclaimed director Wes Anderson will indeed be filming his latest movie "Moonrise Kingdom" at numerous sites throughout Rhode Island and Aquidneck Island beginning this spring.
Although he did not go so far as to name Middletown as a location, Middletown officials have confirmed the vacant on West Main Road will serve as production offices for Anderson's latest star-packed film.
Town Administrator Shawn Brown and other school officials confirmed that a pre-production crew in recent weeks has begun setting up the film's production offices at the JFK School, which closed at the end of the 2008-2009 school year when Middletown Public Schools consolidated grades K-3 into the Forest Avenue and Aquidneck Elementary Schools, and grade 4 became the new Gaudet Learning Academy at the Gaudet Middle School campus.
Whether or not Middletown itself will only serve as a production base camp or will double onscreen as the 1960s small town setting that's central to the plot points, reportedly built around a tale of young runaways, so far remains unclear.
Elsewhere throughout Rhode Island, the state's film community supporters celebrated the news on Tuesday through a joint-issued news release.
“This is a spectacular moment in Rhode Island film history. Wes Anderson is one of America’s most unique cinematic storytellers of our day," Feinberg said. "He not only brings his own artistic style to film. He also attracts a treasure trove of high profile talent to each production he works on. This wonderful story, in particular, is whimsical, nostalgic and rich in atmosphere. We are very pleased that our hard-working local crew, talent pool and exceptional Rhode Island locations will be given the opportunity to shine in a movie that will be seen by a world-wide audience.”
Anderson, an Academy Award-nominated director who helmed such films as “Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," and more recently the animated “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” has reportedly signed on an A-List cast to include Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Jason Schwartzman. Both Murray and Schwartzman have become familiar faces in many of Anderson's films. Anderson's most recent film, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," featured the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray, and garnered an Oscar nomination for best animated feature film in 2010.
Evan Smith, President of the Newport & Bristol County Visitors Bureau, said in a jointly prepared news release with Feinberg that it's always a thrill to have renowned filmmakers choose Newport County as the backdrop for their productions and that he hoped the exposure would bring more visitors to the tourism driven area.
"This film will have a positive economic impact not only to Aquidneck island," he said, "but throughout the state, touching all segments of the hospitality industry, from lodging, dining, transportation, shopping to attractions and beyond!”
President of the State Senate, M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D–Dist. 13, Jamestown, Newport) also saw opportunities that could help the local economy.
“This project can help Rhode Island workers through jobs and internships in the film industry, use of Rhode Island vendors, and further promotion of our state through exposure of its many magnificent characteristics in a feature film,” she said.
According to the Rhode Island Film & Television Office, "Moonrise Kingdom" is written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola. Anderson is also named as a producer, along with collaborators Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson. Indian Paintbrush Productions will finance and produce the picture.