Cast, crew of suspense thriller film scenes at Glensheen
Her blonde tendrils falling around her, Francesca Eastwood leaned to place some leaves on a stone footbridge over a thawing Tischer Creek. The 21-year-old daughter of Clint Eastwood wanted to mark the spot she was expected to run to during an upcoming scene.
"I'll get you a hard mark," one of the hustling crew members said.
Moments later, Eastwood sprang onto the bridge, stopped, reacted to a set piece gravestone below and sprang off. Cut.
The first film to be shot at Duluth's historic Glensheen Mansion in more than 40 years was nearly complete Tuesday when the cast and crew broke for lunch. There were just a few shots remaining in the three-week shoot — the final two days of which were spent on the mansion's grounds on the shores of Lake Superior.
"This is my first time doing a movie like this — that's suspenseful and kinda creepy," said the Los Angeles-based Eastwood, who looks more like her mother, actress Frances Fisher, than she does her iconic father. "It's a new frontier for me."
Cast in the lead role one filmmaker described as "a Hitchcock blonde," Eastwood looked the part. She was petite in form; robust in personality. Her voice was distinctive, featuring tones reminiscent of Kathleen Turner. The filmmakers of "Forgotten" said they gambled on her nascent career and weren't disappointed, describing her performance as gritty, with a fire in her belly and capable of melting down in a scene.
"She made me a day one convert," said director Joel Soisson.
On Monday night, Eastwood found herself in the Glensheen woods, fighting for her character's life in one of the movie's climactic scenes.
"I was in real tears," she said. "Genuine terror."
Costarring with Eastwood was Glensheen itself in all its splendor.
Since 1972's Patty Duke vehicle "You'll Like My Mother," the mansion has been out of the movie business. The 1977 murders in the mansion of heiress Elisabeth Congdon and her night nurse have brought out a surfeit of filmmakers trying to tell that story. But the University of Minnesota Duluth, owner of the mansion, has wanted nothing to do with it, instead having invested heavily in telling the overarching legacy of Chester Congdon, his family and his mansion completed in 1908. But approached a few months ago with the prospect of "Forgotten" — a story about an abandoned young heiress finding her way back into her duplicitous mother's arms — the movie and opportunity seemed right.
"It's different enough," from the Congdon tragedy, said Glensheen director Dan Hartman. "We thought it was quality enough. They stay away enough that we felt safe."
With producers feeling Glensheen's interior was too museum-like, interior mansion shots were filmed earlier at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul. Glensheen was used exclusively for its exterior personality. While Eastwood and other cast and crew shook HotHands to stay warm, the mansion became center stage in the crisp open air. Its woods, lakeshore and creeks, and its foreboding stone landscaping, captured the imagination of producer Michael Leahy.
Leahy scouted Duluth in January and left feeling like he'd found just the right place.
"One of the characters is a giant estate — this beautiful mansion," he said.
A 20 percent production cost rebate courtesy of Minnesota Film and TV secured the movie deal, moving "Forgotten" off of a Hollywood studio lot and into location shooting.
"We couldn't be here without Snowbate," Leahy said of the incentive program the state uses to attract filmmakers.
And so it was that a young Eastwood found herself scarfing Hanabi sushi and responding to production calls — "We need our actress!" — under the view from Clara's Balcony.
"I'm loving Minnesota," she said. "I want to come back when it's warm. It's a little chilly."
When to see it?
"Forgotten" is a low-budget indie movie being made by MarVista Entertainment. MarVista films generally first appear on television, but it's possible, the filmmakers said, that "Forgotten" could get a theatrical run later this year. Filmmakers said they don't expect it to appear anywhere before July.