From The Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh – 1991 November 27:

“Library waits 90 years for film debut

Carnegie scenes arouse curiosity”

By Patricia Van Horn



Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
November 27, 1991

Estimated printed pages: 4

Once again, the actors playing a politician's supporters climbed the steps to the music hall at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie.

And once again, they returned to their original places to wait for the next take. As they waited, they blew on their hands and shuffled their feet to shake off the morning chill.


It wasn't the ideal workplace for someone with the flu. But Gloria Perry of Whitehall was happy to be there. She had received a late call the previous night from the Actors Casting Network. "The doctor said for me to stay in bed. It's a dedication to this line of work."

She and the others ended up waiting again, but at least it was inside. They watched from the balcony as workers put the finishing touches on the library auditorium's transformation into the Altoona Town Hall for a beauty pageant, the next scene being filmed for the movie "Bob Roberts."

The film, whose star and director is Tim Robbins, focuses on a fictional folksinger who runs for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania in 1990. It will be produced in documentary form and captures candidate Roberts on the campaign trail. The film also stars Alan Rickman ("Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves"), Giancarlo Esposito ("Do the Right Thing"), Ray Wise ("Twin Peaks"), and Pittsburgher Tom Atkins.


"A documentary of the campaign tour will give the illusion of reality," said the movie's producer, Forrest Murray. "It's a trip across Pennsylvania without leaving Pittsburgh."

The movie crew spent three days at the library, building and removing the set and filming the outside scenes and the beauty pageant. "It will be about two minutes of film time," Murray said.


It was the 90-year-old library building's movie debut. Library director Linda Weiner is hoping it's not the last. "I hope something comes out of it, that someone wants to use it again.


"The movie (filmed here) has caused a lot of curiosity. A couple of the patrons called and wanted to know why they could not get near the library" to park.

Judy Matthews of Squirrel Hill, a free-lance location manager, was instrumental in arranging for the shoot at the library, which she called "a little gem."

She said she has been trying to get the library into the movies for several years, ever since her daughter performed in a Don Brockett fund-raiser for repairs to the building. "It's a wonderful building and I know they need the money. It's been one of the best places to work with."

Neither Ms. Matthews nor library officials would reveal the location fee.


"This is very impressive," Murray said as he sat in the music hall. ''It's a wonderful place to make a movie."

The library also came in handy. In one scene, Robbins sings "Beautiful Girl" to the beauty pageant contestants, calling out their towns: "Miss Three Mile Island," "Miss Pocahontas" and other unusual-sounding Pennsylvania towns. Mrs. Weiner said they used a library book about Pennsylvania to find the names of those towns.

"Bob Roberts" is being shot in about 30 locations in Western Pennsylvania, including Waynesburg, Uniontown and Downtown. Shooting started earlier this month and will continue until Dec. 12. The movie, which is budgeted under $4 million, is scheduled to be released in theaters in September.

"It's largely an urban picture," Murray said. But he added that Pittsburgh was chosen mainly because the crews could easily travel from the city to small towns in less than an hour.


He said the Pittsburgh Film Office has been very accommodating. "There's a film community here that's very real. That's one of the pluses of Pittsburgh."

On a recent production day, the extras started arriving at 9 a.m. while Murray, Nicholls, the cinematographer and others met around 10 to discuss the next day's shoot Downtown. Weather forecasters had predicted an inch of snow, which would scrub any exterior shots since the movie is set in autumn. The alternative was to shoot inside.

While they met, the actors were putting on their makeup and wardrobe. At 11:30 a.m., the crew was ready to shoot the first scene.

For the extras, it's mostly a waiting game. Some days are 12 hours long. The pay averages from $40 to $65 a day, but it's the chance to be a star -- no matter how small the part.


"You have to have patience and be a little crazy too," said Ms. Perry, a local singer whose stage name is Gloria Grino. She also is an extra in ''Lorenzo's Oil," another film being shot in Pittsburgh.


Ms. Perry was one of the people climbing the stairs, a member of the audience for the beauty pageant and one of the reporters waiting outside -- in the rain -- for Roberts after his performance. "I held a tape recorder up," she said.

Greg Roberts of Wilkinsburg said he has worked in several other films as an extra since last year. "You don't count on this. It's a sideline."

But he enjoys it. "You get an appreciation of the work involved. It may take a good 40 minutes for one scene and it ends up as 15 seconds."

Veteran extra Rik Billock, of Vandergrift, Westmoreland County, has been in about 30 films in Pittsburgh, starting with "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" in 1979.

He even has a line in Stephen King's "The Dark Half" directed by George Romero, to be released in January. "I play a New York City cop investigating a murder and I'm chasing Timothy Hutton and have words with him."


As an extra, he said, "you hurry up (to get here) and wait. We may be here for 10 hours and not do a thing. But there is not anything else I've ever wanted to do."

He said in one film, he "popped up three different times as three different people."

Still, not everyone may see his face. In one movie, only his backside was shown.

"I didn't recognize it, but my girlfriend did."




By Callie Shell/The Pittsburgh Press: Cast members of "Bob Roberts"
walk through a scene in the auditorium of the Andrew Carnegie Free
Library in Carnegie


Page: W5

Copyright (c) 1991 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Record Number: 9103180783