Film Comedy Based in Part on Meeteetse

From The Billings Gazette click here for the article.

CODY — Did you hear about the Morgans? If you didn’t, don’t feel bad. Apparently, neither did many people in Meeteetse.

The town of about 300 was used as a model for the fictional setting of Ray, Wyo., in the new movie “Did You Hear About the Morgans?”

But no one in Meeteetse contacted by The Gazette had seen the movie, released Dec. 18.

The fish-out-of-water romantic comedy stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant as an estranged New York couple who witness a murder. Federal marshals move the Morgans to a tiny Wyoming town to live under new identities.

Though most of the location scenes portraying Wyoming were filmed in New Mexico, filmmakers spent a few days in Park County during summer 2007 researching the story.

“They were just touring around the West, looking for areas to shoot the movie and get ideas for the script,” said Tim Kellogg, who works at a ranch west of town and owns Meeteetse Chocolatier, a Main Street coffee and dessert cafe.

State tourism and business development officials put writer-director Marc Lawrence in touch with Kellogg, who showed them a slice of Park County life.

“They wanted to go to a rodeo and check out a working ranch, so I showed them around and answered questions,” said Kellogg, who also is an occasional rodeo competitor.

“I took them to the Cody Nite Rodeo, and it was in early June and it had been snowing. It was still pretty cold, and they asked if it was always like this,” he said.

Kellogg said the filmmakers spent a day in Meeteetse and a day in Cody, and kept in touch for a while with some Meeteetse residents to continue their research as they wrote the script.

“I got specific information and insight that was utilized in the script. The people were terrific, welcoming and very generous with their time,” Lawrence said.

Location scouts and others working on the film spent some time in the Cowboy Bar, a Meeteetse saloon founded in 1893, said owner Jim Blake.

“They seemed like real nice folks, very polite. They didn’t give off the big showbiz deal at all,” Blake said.

It’s not the first time a story set in Wyoming was filmed elsewhere. “An Unfinished Life,” adapted for the screen by Cody author Mark Spragg from his novel of the same name, was filmed in Canada, as was “Brokeback Mountain.”

The state’s modest budget for film incentives and relatively small pool of film industry specialists makes it difficult to lure big productions from other states.

But Michell Howard, manager of the Wyoming Film Office, is hopeful the film will bring Wyoming to the attention of a large audience of potential visitors.

“The possible tourism effect is difficult to gauge, but the story being set here can only help to reach many people who aren’t familiar with us,” Howard said.

So far, the phone isn’t ringing off the hook in the Meeteetse Visitor Center, said director Linda Benson.

“I didn’t even know it was out yet. I had seen the ads on TV, but really, I had no idea. Nobody told me,” she said.

Kellogg and Blake both said they had not seen the film either. Meeteetse has no movie theater, and Billings is the closest place to screen the picture.

Reviewers have widely panned the movie, which has earned about $16 million since its release and cost $58 million to produce.

“The movie is like a car wreck in which no one is injured but the onlookers,” wrote Richard Corliss in his review for Time magazine.

“There’s a scene where Hugh Grant confronts a grizzly bear, and I’ve never rooted so hard for a predatory mammal,” wrote A.O. Scott, a film critic for The New York Times and other publications.

Benson said that she was unlikely to drive the 275-mile round trip to Billings to see the film.

“I have every intention of renting it from Netflix,” she said.

Contact Ruffin Prevost at rprevost@billingsgazette.com

The movie might suck, but our little town doesn’t.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. whatigotsofar
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 05:03:40

    A Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant might suck? No. It will suck. I’m sure that town is great, but the movie will suck.

    Love Hugh Grant, can’t stand SJP. Most likely won’t bother watching it.

    Reply

  2. DarcKnyt
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 11:11:28

    I would like to see your town. The film, not so much. But the town for sure. 🙂

    My little town is cool.

    Reply

  3. DarcsFalcon
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 12:56:55

    Is the Cowboy bar one of the places you work? I recall you mentioned a cowboy place once.

    Yes, that is the other place I work. I haven’t worked there since before Thanksgiving because business has slowed down everywhere, but I’ll probably pick up a day next summer.

    Is that a job or what? Drive around looking for places to make a movie. Then change that place, or film somewhere else that looks more like your “vision.”

    If you think about it, there are tons of cool jobs that I have no idea how to get. I’d love to be a location scout or even a talent scout.

    A movie was filmed in a town I lived in once, and the movie co put up all kinds of false storefronts and street signs and everything, and they went into the businesses and changed their window displays too. Then they went someplace else for the “background” stuff.

    Several years ago Kiefer Sutherland was in a movie called ‘The Vanishing’ or something like that and part of it was this couple going through the long tunnel outside of Cody on their way somewhere. So I expected them to end up in Yellowstone Park, but instead they were at Mount St. Helen in Washington. I was so lost for the rest of the movie, I just couldn’t enjoy it at all.

    I’ve seen WY, and I’ve seen NM – and WY is lovely enough to stand on its own. 🙂

    I love Wyoming. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

    Hey! You changed your blog! Cool!

    I did! Thanks for noticing. Now though, I am getting a lot of spam comments. I have no idea why changing my background would cause that.

    Reply

  4. Kate
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 01:10:34

    “There’s a scene where Hugh Grant confronts a grizzly bear, and I’ve never rooted so hard for a predatory mammal,”

    Know the feeling.

    It makes me want to see it just to appreciate its badness.

    Reply

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