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Irvington: The Hudson Valley’s New Hollywood

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November 1, 2015

Could that have been Emily Blunt, the gorgeous British actress, walking up the steps of Irvington’s Village Hall?

Wasn’t that John Malkovitch in the back of that limo headed down Ardsley Avenue?

Why is Station Road closed? I’ve got a train to catch.

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If the scene in Irvington seems a bit… unusual these days, chances are it has something to do with all the filming that’s going on in town. Irvington is in the movies. At their October 19 board meeting, village trustees approved two new applications for permits to film in the village. One was from a small independent production company, Middleground for a feature film to be shot partly in Matthiessen Park, by the river.

The other was from Dreamworks Studios (you know, Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan, Transformers, Lincoln, etc.) to film the lion’s share of a new major production, The Girl on the Train, based on the Paula Hawkins novel of the same name, to be shot at multiple locations around Irvington from late October through January.

Sites include the Ardsley on Hudson train station (a favorite for film and ad makers over the years), the tunnel on Station Road, Village Hall (which will be transformed cinematographically into a police station), the library, and the woods behind the reservoir (where exciting and terrible things will happen). The film will star Emily Blunt (Sicario, The Devil Wears Prada, Into the Woods), Jared Leto (Suicide Squad), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible) and Chris Evans (Captain America) and is scheduled for release some time in late 2016.

The set-up for The Girl on the Train will start less than a month after another major film wrapped in Irvington: Wilde Wedding, a comedy starring Glenn Close, John Malkovitch and Sir Patrick Stewart, filmed mostly at Nuit, the Ardsley Park estate owned by banker Martin Dolan. Film crews took over the property for six weeks, from early September through mid October, occupying the mansion itself and setting up a tented food court in the northwest quadrant of the property overlooking the Hudson.

Serving as a movie site is hardly new to Irvington, which was the location for The Nesting (1981). The solarium at Nuit was featured in a small segment of Age of Innocence (1993). Also filmed in town: The Juror, with Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore (1996); The Devil’s Own, with Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt (1997) used the Church of St. Barnabas for a small scene, and the Ardsley on Hudson train station featured heavily in Unfaithful, with Richard Gere and Diane Lane (2002). The station, originally built as a millionaires’ depot for the old Ardsley Casino, also starred in a Dr. Pepper commercial.

In all, the Rivertowns, from Hastings to Tarrytown, are routinely used for TV ads, TV shows (Law & Order) and feature length films. This year, Tarrytown has issued permits for the film Wizard of Lies, the TV show Property Brothers, as well as half a dozen other shows and commercials. Sleepy Hollow hosted crews shooting Woody Allen’s The Wilding, Stephen King’s A Good Marriage, Jennifer Anniston in The Bounty Hunter as well as an episode of CBS’s Madame Secretary. In August, Showtime’s steamy series, The Aff air, shot parts of its Season 2 in Dobbs Ferry, while rival HBO shot some scenes from The Leftovers at the historic Zion Episcopal Church.

Why is this area so popular with movie makers? “For a lot of shows, you need to be in Anytown USA, and these (Hudson River) towns fit the bill,” said Stephen Wertimer, a freelance producer who has worked on scores of Law & Order episodes over the years. “They’re easy to get to; they have good transportation. Because they’re within 30 miles of Columbus Circle, the travel time (for production workers) doesn’t count in labor costs.”

New York gets more filming as well because it offers financial incentives: Fully 30% of production costs are refundable for work done in the state.

Another factor, according to Wertimer, is that “a lot of directors, actors and producers live around there.” The lower Hudson River valley is familiar territory.

Why is this area so popular with moviemakers? “For a lot of shows, you need to be in Anytown USA, and these (Hudson River) towns fit the bill.”
—Stephen Wertimer, freelance producer

Filming can be disruptive, as it is sure to be when crews from Dreamworks cordon off Station Road to paint the tunnel under the Aqueduct a darker, more ominous color— and cause a major detour for commuters headed to or from the Irvington train station. But such inconveniences are to be tolerated, not only because of the residual fame gained from being part of a major movie, but also because the village collects $1,000-a-day for filming on private property and $5,000-a-day for filming on public property. Private property owners cut their own deals with the movie makers. It’s a question of how much inconvenience you want to trade for a small place in cinematographic history.

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