A Hollywood film crew spent six days last week shooting scenes for a new movie at DuPont State Recreational Forest, whose waterfalls and woods have been the backdrop for several films in the last decade.
Last week, a film crew was in DuPont State Recreational Forest shooting scenes for a new movie. One of the scenes was shot near Triple Falls, shown above.
MGM Studios, Sunswept Entertainment and Picture 8 Productions began work on the family adventure film “Max” at DuPont on June 2 and wrapped up filming Saturday, said Forest Superintendent Jason Guidry.
Written and directed by Boaz Yakin, of “Remember the Titans” fame, the film is based on the true-life events of a military working dog who returns from active service in Afghanistan traumatized by his handler’s death. Its release is set for Jan. 30.
“Erratic and dangerous, Max is adopted by the bereaved family and bonds with the marine’s troubled 14-year-old brother,” says the movie’s official synopsis. “Together they unravel the secret behind his brother’s death and pull a family together again.”
The movie’s cast includes Josh Wiggins, best known for his role in the Sundance family drama “Hellion” opposite Juliette Lewis; Lauren Graham of the TV series “Gilmore Girls” and now “Parenthood;” and Thomas Haden Church, who won an Oscar nod for his performance in 2004’s “Sideways.”
Wiggins, who plays 14-year-old Justin Wincott, was part of the filming at DuPont, according to film publicist Peter J. Silbermann, along with Haden Church, who plays his father. Graham, who plays Mrs. Wincott, was not present.
But the film’s real stars are the Belgian Malinois dogs who collectively play Max, the military-trained shepherd. Assistant Forest Supervisor Bruce MacDonald helped accommodate and monitor the filming and was impressed with the three dogs used to portray the title character.
“It was interesting because the trainers were always working them, to keep them engaged throughout the day, even when they weren’t (on set),” MacDonald said. “They were sort of using us. They’d have a dog come up and sit next to me and go through behaviors, such as ignoring me or looking at certain things and not at others.”
The dog handlers had special facilities set up where they would take their animals to settle down between scenes, MacDonald said.
“They had air-conditioned areas for them, which seemed crazy, but when you watched them working, you didn’t want them showing up hot and sweaty. They were very well-taken care of,” he said, adding that makeup artists even applied colored markings so all the Belgian Malinois looked the same on camera.
On June 2, the crew filmed a scene on the Little River below Triple Falls in which Max the dog crosses the current with Wiggins and two teenaged friends, played by Mia Xitlali and Dejon LaQuake. In another scene, Max zip-lines through the woods near the Triple Falls Trail.
“It’s part of their journey,” said Silbermann. “Broadly speaking, they’re on a little bit of a mission.”
Canine and human actors spent most of that Monday in the river, MacDonald said. The forest had to temporarily shut down access for visitors, but he said tourists seemed more intrigued than annoyed.
“The production crew they had holding folks up, they’d talk to our forest visitors and tell them what was going on,” MacDonald said. “They were very professional. Generally, I heard a lot of positive comments.”
Guidry said rangers tried to minimize the impact on visitation by limiting filming in popular spots to weekdays “to avoid tying up our parking lots and trails on the weekend.” Although the film crew filmed near Hooker Falls and Triple Falls, much of its time was spent at an old rock quarry off Cascade Lake Road, he said.
“There were some rock faces and some cliff-type looks, with lots of loose rocks and rubble,” said MacDonald. “I steered them over there because it’s remote and has the least impact on forest visitors.”
Silbermann said the quarry was “just another look. You don’t want to use the same mountain, the same feature a lot.” DuPont’s visual variety, beauty and good access was what drew the location manager who scouted for the film in May, he said.
“The Blue Ridge Mountains are gorgeous and DuPont is gorgeous and the waterfalls there are spectacular,” he said. “We wanted a diversity of looks, and nothing quite looks like DuPont.”
The filming was a financial bonanza for several Hendersonville hotels, said Kathy Kanupp, manager of Comfort Inn on Mitchelle Drive. Compared to the same time period last year, the Comfort Inn alone “increased our room count about 158 room nights,” she said.
Other hotels owned by the same family — including the Days Inn and Red Roof Inn on Mitchelle and Ramada on Sugarloaf Road — also filled rooms with production people for up to seven nights, Kanupp said.
“You couldn’t have asked for a better group of people,” she said. “We had the grips, the special effects folks, the electricians. I don’t know who they all were, but we had bunches of them.”
“Max” is not the first Hollywood production to use the forest. In 1991, before the state acquired the land, Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe joined a large support crew to film scenes for “Last of the Mohicans” at Hooker, Triple and Bridal Veil Falls.
In 2011, DuPont became the cinematic wilderness in which Katniss Everdeen must survive in “The Hunger Games,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson. Filming took place around the lower end of Triple Falls Trail, Hooker Falls Road and Bridal Veil Falls Road.
“Our rangers put in a lot of time into meeting with these folks for three or four days, going to potential locations and asking questions,” said Guidry. “Bruce and (Forest Ranger) Eric Folk’s experience with ‘The Hunger Games’ really helped them out.”
By Nathaniel Axtell