At Kernan Hospital: Is there a director in the house?

The world of stars met the world of stitches yesterday -- and left its mark.

"I'm saving this side for Shirley MacLaine," said X-ray technician Laura Smith, indicating the still-blank right side of a lab coat that flaunted a freshly scrawled "Nicolas Cage" on the left. "But she seems very guarded."


Which is appropriate, since Ms. MacLaine is the "Tess" and Mr. Cage is the "guard" in the coming movie, "Guarding Tess," that is being filmed in and around Baltimore.

Yesterday, the filming took them to Kernan Hospital, an orthopedic rehabilitation facility in the Dickeyville area of West Baltimore and "a pretty quiet place until this happened," according to Ms. Smith.


Ms. MacLaine plays another of those cantankerous-yet-much-beloved characters she seems to specialize in these days -- this time, an ex-first lady whose husband died in office almost 10 years earlier. Mr. Cage is the Secret Service agent charged with protecting her. At one point in what the TriStar Pictures press release describes as a "funny and moving story of an unlikely friendship," she is taken to a hospital in suburban Columbus, Ohio, which is what was filmed at Kernan yesterday.

Despite the signs that warned "QUIET: HOSPITAL PATIENT AREA," crews and actors descended on the facility to shoot an emergency room scene and, later, Ms. MacLaine being happily wheeled out, a properly dour Mr. Cage at her side, as on-lookers cheer and a mob of reporters film and try to interview her.

This being the artifice of filmmaking, real hospital personnel gathered to watch filming of extras hired to play hospital personnel, while real local media photographed pretend media photographing Ms. MacLaine.

"It's been going really well," said director Hugh Wilson, who in the time-honored tradition of Hollywood nepotism got his four incredibly cute and blond children into the act as part of Ms. MacLaine's family.

"I must say we've been awfully lucky. We're only one day behind schedule, and that was because of the blizzard.

"It's always fun to come back to the East Coast," said Mr. Wilson, whose mother was born in Locust Point and who lives in Charlottesville, Va. "Southern California people are so jaded. We've really had an excellent time here."

The filming, which began Feb. 17 and is scheduled to continue through the second week of April, has meant jobs for more than 1,000 local actors, extras and crew, said publicist Judith Rheiner. And, of course, autographs -- hospital workers got everything from scraps of paper to operating room scrubs signed during breaks in filming by actors, including Eddie Albert Jr.

The movie has a $20 million budget. No release date has been set.