Main Beach became the set for the filming of "Savages," an Oliver Stone-directed movie, which includes actors Demian Bichir, middle, and Benicio Del Toro, right, who walk across the grass while filming a scene. Also in the movie are John Travolta, Salma Hayek and Emile Hirsch. (DON LEACH, Coastline Pilot / September 15, 2011)

Onlookers crowded Main Beach this week to get a glimpse of the cast of "Savages," a film by director Oliver Stone.

"Traffic" star Benicio Del Toro, Taylor Kitsch of "Friday Night Lights" and Demián Bichir of "Weeds" were some of the stars spotted on the beach this week.

The cast also includes John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Emile Hirsch, "Gossip Girl" actress Blake Lively and Salma Hayek.

The film, which is set to be released in 2012, is based on the book of the same name by Don Winslow.

According to the author's website, the book is centered on a Laguna Beach marijuana operation that butts heads with a Mexican cartel.

Susan Cannan, Laguna Beach's director of community services, said that the film's crew called the city a few months ago to inquire about obtaining filming permits.

A couple weeks ago the crew did minor filming in the area, but most locals got a look at the bulk of the filming in the city Monday and Tuesday at Main Beach.

Cannan said the crew was set to film at other locations Wednesday and Thursday throughout the city, including private residences.

When a film applies for a permit, Cannan said citizens are the first priority, and the city makes sure that traffic, noise and parking are taken into consideration.

For the filming of "Savages," production paid off-duty lifeguards and police officers to assist because of the location at the beach and the increased crowds.

Cannan said she was initially slightly worried about social media helping word get out, but she said the department had received no complaints as of Tuesday.

One positive outcome of the movie filming in Laguna was the fact that the cast and crew dined and stayed at Laguna Beach businesses, which Cannan could not name.

Other than "Savages," Laguna Beach is a frequent location for commercials and magazine photo shoots. Sports Illustrated has used the city as a backdrop in its swimsuit edition, Cannan said.

joanna.clay@latimes.com

Twitter: @joannaclay