Hollywood Comes To The Registry of Deeds

It is that time of the year when the Oscars will be awarded in all kinds of film categories. Dedham and the Norfolk Registry of Deeds have quite a few experiences where, “Hollywood came a knocking”.

For exactly 100 years now, Dedham has been a place where movies have been shot or talked about. It was 1919 when the silent movie classic,  “Anne of Green Gables” was filmed. Classic film star Mary Miles Minter, considered it to be her favorite role. Since then a series of movies and television shows have used Dedham as a location.

In the 1970’s, the film “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” starring Robert Mitchum was shot here. Coincidentally, it was based on a book written by a Norfolk County author, Milton’s George V. Higgins.  In the 80’s, the television show “Spenser for Hire” featured the Endicott House and that site was also used for a scene in the movie “The Perfect Storm.” Another TV show, which used several different Dedham scenes was “The Practice,” starring James Spader.

Other movies recently filmed in Dedham included the “The Judge,” starring Robert Downey and Robert Duvall and the film “Detroit”, which was filmed in the Courthouse located in Dedham and directed by Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow. One day when they were filming  “The Judge”, Robert Downey knocked on my door and asked if he could use the conference room for studying his lines.  Needless to say, the answer was yes. And it is true what they say about Robert Downey; he is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

Hollywood was not only filming in Dedham, but they were also talking about it. Both highly regarded movies starring Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Departed” and “Shutter Island,” which was also shot here, mentioned Dedham.

So it wasn’t all too surprising when I got a call asking if a major motion picture company could shoot some scenes at the Registry of Deeds. It was perfect timing for us to roll out the red carpet to Hollywood. We had just finished a repair and renovation project on the 116 year old Registry building that improved and repaired the outside granite edifice, the roof, damaged ceilings and moldings as well as getting the Record Hall painted.  

Now getting ready to host a major movie production for a few days is indeed a herculean task. And on top of it, you just can’t close down a Registry of Deeds: so to borrow a Hollywood phrase when it comes to the Registry’s operations, “The show must [and did] go on.” 

So we adapted. The basement floor where the real estate closings were usually held became the storage area for movie making equipment including lights and sound equipment as well as miles of cable. Parking, which is always tight at the Registry, had to be rearranged, especially the back lot where 3 movie production trucks, the size of tractor trailers, hummed throughout the days and evenings.

My big Hollywood break came when we were temporarily moving our customer service office around the corner to allow the director to shoot some scenes. Someone yelled at me, “Hey you with the tie on. You look like a clerk. How about being in this shot?” Well you didn’t need to ask me twice!

The film is titled “I Care a Lot.” According to the production’s company release it’s about how, “A legal guardian discovers that her seemingly perfect client is not who they appear to be.” It stars several actors that between them have won or been nominated for a series of Oscars and Emmys, including Peter Dinklage, Rosamund Pike, Eiza Gonzalez and Dianne Wiest.

The two days of shooting at the Registry saw Rosamund Pike, who was nominated for an Oscar for “Gone Girl” and Eiza Gonzalez who starred in the recent franchise Fast and Furious movie  “Hobbs & Shaw” with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. They were both very professional and congenial to everyone.  You could even describe Eiza Gonzalez as a “hot ticket.”

As I look back now at the movie production, it was an exciting time. Just to see how professional and focused these actors and actresses were in doing their scenes. It was also fascinating to see the work behind the camera and to notice the amount of time, equipment and personnel it took just to do a few scenes. I guess they’re right when they say, “there is no business like show business.”

The film is scheduled for release in 2020. There’s even talk that the movie  title could even change if it is sold to a major studio.

And as for my big break in the film world?  Well we will see but I am not quitting my day job.

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds will be closed on Thursday, July 4th in celebration of Independence Day. We are open Friday, July 5th.

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds is closed Today, July 4th in celebration of Independence Day. We are open Friday, July 5th.