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Finding Nelson in The Tall Man
While a local big-screen premiere looks increasingly doubtful, The Tall Man — the Jessica Biel thriller filmed in and around Nelson, Ymir, and Salmo in 2010 — can now be downloaded from Netflix and other on-line sources.
My wife-to-be and I watched it last weekend and while I probably wouldn’t have been interested had it not been shot around here, it was neat to see many local faces and places.
In the opening two minutes alone, we’re treated to cameos by Nelson’s Lucas Myers (who gets in a couple of lines as a deputy sheriff) and Pat Henman (playing a nurse stitching up a bloodied Biel), as well as shots of the Taghum and Brilliant bridges, and the Salmo valley from the air.
In a seamless bit of movie magic, the camera pans from the Nelson train station to main street Ymir, as if side-by-side (a main street with businesses on both sides, no less, thanks to some faux buildings).
Jessica Biel plays a nurse in the depressed mining town of Cold Rock, where a series of children have gone missing, allegedly swiped by a mysterious figure known as the Tall Man.
Although Cold Rock is supposed to be in Washington state, Kaslo is curiously mentioned a couple of times.
The movie makes good use of its West Kootenay backdrop: even scenes that aren’t instantly familiar as this area were in fact shot here, including interiors of the White Line truck stop at Erie, Mount St. Francis, and a house on Porto Rico Road built especially for the movie, but since disassembled. A dramatic crash was filmed outside Kokanee Creek Park.
The acting’s okay, even if the dialogue doesn’t give the actors much to work with. Multiple plot twists will keep you guessing, but all becomes more or less clear in the end.
In addition to Biel, familiar faces include Janet Wright (Emma from Corner Gas) and William B. Davis (Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files).
Several other locals get credited background roles, including Nelson’s Georgia Swedish and Winlaw’s Ricardo Hubbs, who plays the diner chef. But the biggest surprise in the credits is Michelle Mungall. The Nelson-Creston MLA’s appearance is blink-and-miss, and even on freeze frame, you can’t really tell it’s her.
Mungall hadn’t yet seen the movie when I spoke to her Monday.
She explained that she and her husband attended the casting call like everyone else, curious what it would be like having a movie filmed in their backyard.
She received a couple of callbacks and then was cast — as a jeering prison inmate.
“I guess I used some of my skills from fierce debates in the legislature,” she quipped.
It was a small role, but wanting to do her best, Mungall did a bit of research by watching documentaries about women’s prisons.
Her brief scene was filmed over two full nights inside the cold Salmo curling rink, where the jail set was built. The actors playing inmates were told to wear no make-up and “look as disheveled as possible.”
Mungall says she was amazed how many takes were required. Although provided with a script for the audition, ultimately “they were looking for emotion, so it was just yell. And they asked us to do a lot of swearing.”
By the end, her voice was hoarse.
The closest Mungall got to Jessica Biel was being in the same scene, but she enjoyed rubbing shoulders with the other extras.
“It was incredibly fun,” she says. “But it would be a difficult way to make a living. It’s such a wonderful experience to have a full film production through our community and give us all the opportunity to be in the movie and employ a lot of people.”
Mungall says her turn as an actor gave her a first-hand look at the value of the film industry to BC.
While The Tall Man isn’t the best film ever shot around here, it’s far from the worst.
Producers promised a local premiere and last spring booked the Capitol Theatre and sent out invitations, but that fell through. The movie will be in limited theatre release starting on August 31, and then available on DVD and Blu-Ray on September 25.
Greg Nesteroff is a Nelson Star reporter.