Hollywood comes to Riverhead

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | An old car used in a scene Monday drives off set and onto Northville Turnpike, sections of which were closed for much of the day.

Hollywood film crews have been spending Monday in Riverhead, filming “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the latest movie from Academy Award-winning directors the Coen Brothers.

The movie shoot began about 7:30 a.m. at two locations made to look like Midwest gas stations, the Riverhead Water District property on Northville Turnpike and Route 105, and at another set outside an old potato barn just up the road. The back of the water district building was made to look like an old Gulf station, and the front of the potato barn was made to look like a garage.

The movie, a period piece about a folk singer set mostly in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village in 1961, features movie stars such as John Goodman of the “Big Lebowski” and Justin Timberlake of “The Social Network.”

Oscar Isaac, who starred in a supporting role in last year’s “Drive,” will play the lead character, according to media reports.

It was not clear who was on location in Riverhead Monday, though film crews confirmed that Justin Timberlake was not on set, as he was already done with his shoots for the film. The News-Review was told last week that actor John Goodman would be in town.

Film construction crews had been working since last Monday on the sets to be used in scenes during the lead character’s road trip across the country.

Samson Jacobson, assistant to the film’s location director, said the crew picked out the Riverhead spots because of their rural, Midwestern feel. He added the crew is “extremely grateful” for the hospitality shown by local Riverheaders.

“Riverhead was really willing to help us out,” Mr. Jacobson said. “Everybody loves watching the moviemaking, but Riverhead has gone above and beyond.”

The film staff worked out of the nearby First Baptist Church of Riverhead, which served as a home base for the production crews to work out of, and break for lunch in.

The Rev. Charles Coverdale, pastor of the church, said representatives from the “Inside Llewyn Davis” production asked if they could use his church.

The church is normally closed on Monday mornings, Rev. Coverdale said, so he had to wake up at 4 a.m. to open up the building for the crews. But he said he was happy to help.

“The morning was the most exciting time,” he said. “Seeing the trucks pull in, the bright lights in darkness, smelling the food truck when it opened early … the whole place was just buzzing. You had a feeling that something important was happening.”

The film has also shot on location in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Yonkers, and at Pace University, according to the film’s key construction grip.

“Inside Llewyn Davis,” which is reportedly scheduled for release next year, is based in part on the late folk singer Dave Van Ronk’s 2002 memoir, entitled “The Mayor of MacDougall Street.”

Directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s previous movies include “Fargo,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” “Raising Arizona,” “The Big Lebowski,” and “No Country for Old Men,” which won a best picture Oscar in 2007.

The Riverhead Town Board authorized a lease with Fantastic Voyage LLC on March 6 for crews to film scenes at the two locations for $10,000. The contract with the town also includes access to 24 hours of water district personnel and up to 14 hours of police security.

Riverhead has been the location of many movie and television shoots in recent years. The HBO crime drama “Boardwalk Empire” shot scenes at a Calverton farm last year for the show’s violent season finale, and HBO’s “The Sopranos” filmed in Riverhead twice several years ago, including a time when they put a “For Sale” sign on Riverhead Raceway for a scene, sending local race fans into a panic.

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PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The Coen Brothers film set at the Riverhead Water District property on Northville Turnpike and Route 105 on Monday.