Film crews set to invade Baltimore


We do D.C. well," says Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office, and that's why Baltimore will host Nicole Kidman when she heads the cast of the Warner Bros. sci-fi thriller Invasion this fall. The star, who won an Oscar for portraying a suicidal writer in The Hours (2002), plays a Washington psychiatrist who uncovers the unearthly secret to a behavior-altering epidemic - and must fight to protect her son, who she thinks may be the crucial person standing between Earth and an extraterrestrial invasion.

Invasion's director, Oliver Hirschbiegel, began scouting locations here in early spring for a shoot to run from late September through December. Whether Baltimore will also double for New York City or even play itself for a scene or two is still up in the air with all the aliens. But Hannah Byron, director of Baltimore's film office, confirmed yesterday that the production is in the early stages of setting up offices in the city for roughly a three-month stay.

Hirschbiegel's previous film, Downfall (2004), the true story of Hitler's final days, grossed more than $87 million worldwide and was released on DVD on Tuesday. His new movie is still listed on the Internet Movie Database as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (2006), although The Hollywood Reporter has reported that "the project is neither a reimagining nor a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers" but a "fresh" take from writer David Kajganich, who has two other thriller or horror movies in development.

Baltimore will play itself in the tentatively titled Music High, another major-studio release based here this fall, produced by Summit Entertainment (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) and distributed by Disney's Touchstone Pictures.

Described by Byron as "Fame meets Footloose," it's the story of a juvenile delinquent who must perform community service at an arts high school after he trashes its auditorium. It marks the directorial debut of Anne Fletcher, a choreographer with a list of credits that reaches from TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer to this year's remake of The Longest Yard.

The writers of Music High, Duane Adler and Melissa Rosenberg, set the action in Baltimore. But as Summit's Andrew Golov told The Daily Record in June, an incentive plan that started July 1, making productions eligible for a maximum of $2 million in wage rebates, "had everything to do with our decision to make the movie in Maryland."

Music High, the acclaimed HBO series The Wire and the independent feature Rocket Science, about a male wallflower with a speech impediment who gets a crush on a high school debate star (it's directed by Jeffrey Blitz, Oscar-nominated for his 2002 documentary Spellbound), have already exhausted the rebate program, which was funded for only $4 million.

But Gerbes says the plan has done its job of reviving interest in Maryland filmmaking - and has even resulted, with Music High, in Baltimore playing Baltimore for a change.

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