BootLeg Betty

SSSSHHHH! It’s A Secret

Bette Midler, Meg Ryan and Annette Bening film ‘The Women’ in Georgetown

By Sally Applegate/Correspondent
GateHouse News Service
Wed Sep 26, 2007, 04:24 PM EDT


How do you sneak three major Hollywood stars into and out of town to work for two days without being overrun by curious residents? Quietly. Very, very quietly — down a narrow, low-profile dirt road.

For the first time ever, a Hollywood film studio has used Georgetown as the setting for a film. Camp Leslie was pressed into service as the set for a women’s ashram in the Berkshires in the upcoming film revival of “The Women.”

Rumors started buzzing around Georgetown when the parking lot at Rock Pond Restaurant filled up with large white trailers last week. A car show? A camping expedition? What was that “TW” on each trailer?

When small yellow signs marked “Set” and “Crew” showed up at Camp Leslie and at St. Mary’s Church, people realized someone was filming something. People called friends to find out if anyone knew anything.

It turned out that a remake of the 1939 film “The Women,” starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Bette Midler, Candice Bergen, Debra Messing, Eva Mendes and Jada Pinkett Smith, had come to town to film.

Unit publicist David Linck, who worked as publicist for the films “Three Men and a Baby,” “City Slickers,” “American Beauty,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “Talladega Nights,” called Georgetown a good fit for the film.

“Camp Leslie is quiet and rustic, but right next to a major road, and close to I-95,” said Linck. “The lodge has a beautiful view overlooking a lake. It fit with the script.”

A curious fact about the film is that there is not one single man in it, not even as an extra, according to Linck.

The three actresses who filmed in Georgetown — Meg Ryan, Bette Midler and Annette Bening — were never spotted by residents as they were driven up from Boston, each in her own SUV with her own driver. The actresses were taken straight to makeup trailers at the Rock Pond Restaurant, and then driven to nearby Camp Leslie for long days of filming and rehearsal.

The large film crew had more leeway, and Linck enjoyed a tasty lunch and dinner at Rock Pond Restaurant, and says they also enjoyed subs from Johnny’s on East Main Street, and visited Selectman Lonnie Brennan’s store The Chocolate Cellar for slushes.

The film is on a tight schedule, according to Linck, and the hope is to be done by Oct. 10. The actresses and crew are filming in and around Boston five days a week, 12 hours or more at a time. Filming in Georgetown was done over two days, last Thursday and Friday.

The divine Miss M.
As Georgetown residents learned about having a bit of Hollywood in town, some found ways to get over to Camp Leslie. Dick and Bea Boucher walked over from their nearby home on West Main Street to watch the filming. Bea was impressed with the size of the crew of more than 200 people.

“There was even a dog on the set with a crew pass around his neck,” said Bea. “They sent people over to the Fish and Game to ask them to stop shooting for a few minutes. I was told one person called out an actress’s name at one point, and they cleared everyone out. I was there during the afternoon, and I saw them film a scene where women were putting canoes over their heads and walking towards the water.”

Masco teacher and Georgetown resident Sherry Kenney decided to find out what would happen if she just drove in and then sat with the crew near the filming in front of the lodge.

“People kept looking at me, but no one told me to leave,” said Kenney. “I was talking with Sarah from Buffalo, N.Y., who was the casting person. Whenever they yelled ‘Rolling!’ we stopped talking and watched them filming the same scene from slightly different angles. Sarah told me they do as many as 20 takes sometimes. They were inside and we were outside, but we could see the action on three or four monitors.”

Kenney may have gotten the closest look at Bette Midler, who walked right by her as she was led along a path.

“We made eye contact,” said Kenney. “She was wearing a platinum wig, jeans and a shirt. It was exciting. Oh my gosh, Hollywood is right here in Georgetown! It was nice of them to let me into their midst to get a glimpse of Hollywood from the other side of the camera for the first time in my life.”

Camp Leslie trustees and Georgetown residents Daryl Barta and Eric Waybright spent many hours at the camp offering support to the film crew.

Waybright, whose father used to run Camp Leslie, took a week off from his maintenance mechanic job at General Electric to be on hand during setup and filming.

“It was pleasant. I worked closely with the location scout,” said Waybright. “They filmed a yoga scene, canoes heading for the water, and women talking inside the lodge.”

The real stars
Apparently, Georgetown just lucked out with this film shoot. One day last summer, after getting lost while searching for a different location, according to the camp trustees, the filmmakers were driving on West Main Street and spotted the Camp Leslie sign. They just happened to drive in on the camp’s big annual cookout day.

The filmmakers liked the small remote road into Camp Leslie, but worried the encroaching tree branches would scratch their equipment trucks. They hired Thurlow Street resident Bob Eaton of Eaton Chips to cut back the branches for them.

The filmmakers shined up the lodge floor, added some doors, and planted bushes in front of the lodge, leaving it in better shape than when they arrived.

They originally planned to hire the function room at Rock Pond Restaurant for feeding the crew, but with about 250 on the crew, they needed a larger space. They pitched a large wedding tent on the baseball field at Camp Leslie, feeding the crew and the trustees fancy catered meals like marinated duck, salmon, lasagna, rice, broccoli and carrots and salad on Friday night, plus cooking someone an individual steak.

The stars ate in their trailers back at Rock Pond Restaurant, and then returned to the set, never interacting with the crew or the public.

“They came in, hopped back in their cars, and left,” said Waybright.

Plates of cheese, crackers and fruit were passed around during the day, and for a killer shoot that lasted from 2 p.m. until 4 a.m., sushi, pizzas and coffee were brought in for the crew at midnight.

“They were a very well fed crew,” laughed Waybright. “One day they hired a local ice cream truck to come in during the day, and we could have anything we wanted.”

Trustee President Chuck Ingersol of Wakefield agreed the film crew was certainly well taken care of, and joked that trustee Artie Meehan of Saugus “spent most of his time eating.”

“Everyone was incredibly nice,” said Barta. “They bent over backward to be nice to us, and we bent over backward to be nice to them.”

Ironically, Camp Leslie, which hosts boys and girls ages 7 to 14 for both day and residential camping every summer, was founded in 1939, the same year the original film of “The Women” came out. Campers swim, canoe, do arts and crafts, nature studies, archery and have a skit night. Learn more about Camp Leslie at

“It was nice to see the camp in a different light,” said Ingersol.

“Overall it was a very positive experience,” said Waybright. “It was certainly entertaining for the trustees.”

Still, Waybright said he is more impressed with the Camp Leslie staff than the Hollywood stars.

“Our staff is the backbone of the whole place,” said Waybright. “The counselors and the staff who do a fantastic job for very little money keeping the kids entertained — they’re the real stars.”

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