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Source: Mesabi Daily News

Stars shine on Iron Range
Linda Tyssen
Mesabi Daily News
Last Updated: Thursday, February 10th, 2005 12:02:26 AM
VIRGINIA — They were a table full of Hollywood stars Wednesday
night at the Park Inn.

But it was obvious the stars were quite at home on the Range.
Some of the cast and filmmakers of the Untitled Niki Caro Project, the movie
inspired by the book “Class Action’’ based on the Eveleth Mines sexual
harassment lawsuit, held a press conference, fielding questions from
how they’re learning to talk Ranger to when the movie will come out.

It was an impressive panel — “Cheers’’ actor Woody Harrelson, Oscar-winning
actress Charlize Theron, director Caro, executive producer Doug Claybourne
and actresses Michelle Monaghan, Rusty Schwimmer and Jillian Armenante.
Other stars, including Oscar-winning actresses Sissy Spacek and Frances
McDormand of “Fargo,’’ were not present.

The movie people have been impressed with the Iron Range. “We love
Minnesota. We love Virginia,’’ Claybourne said. Asked if the movie
will premiere on the Range, he smiled and said that’s a good idea.

Claybourne said he hopes the film will be ready for viewing at the
Toronto Film Festival in September. As yet the movie is unnamed —
but there’s a $1,000 prize for the person submitting the winning title.
Movie title entries were even solicited by Claybourne. They can be sent

And though the movie isn’t a documentary about the landmark class
action lawsuit filed by women who worked at Eveleth Mines in the
1970s — nor is it based on the subsequent book, director Caro said
it’s an important story to tell. “As a story, it’s incredibly positive and
emotional and moving and I hope even inspirational,’’ said the New
Zealand-born Caro, who has received acclaim for her movie, “Whale Rider.’’

Caro said she is “very passionate about keeping the integrity of this
place and the people who live here’’ and “so far we have done so with
overwhelming cooperation.’’ She said she was drawn to the story because
it’s an important story to tell. “I hope as a community you are very,
very proud of the fact that such a case was accomplished here. It has
implications not only for women everywhere, but people everywhere.
It’s a great privilege to tell the story.’’

In the Warner Bros. movie, Theron plays single mother Josie Aimes,
who rallies her female coworkers to rise above unfair treatment they
face at a mining company. Theron is hired on as a laborer, working
with conveyor belts and “doing a lot of hosing and scraping and
cleaning.’’ McDormand plays Glory, Josie’s closest friend; Spacek and
Richard Jenkins are Josie’s parents, Alice and Hank; Sean Bean plays
Glory’s boyfriend Kyle. Harrelson is Josie’s lawyer — he joked at the press
conference, “I support this gaggle of goddesses.’’ Jeremy Renner is
Bobby, a miner and Josie’s former classmate; Monaghan, Schwimmer and
Armenante play fellow miners Sherry, Big Betty and Peg.

Filming will begin on the Range next Monday, with shooting also in
New Mexico, and will continue into April.

How the cast is preparing for their roles:
They toured an idled copper mine in Silver City, N.M., where some filming
will be done, and have toured taconite plants on the Range. A blast was
filmed at Ispat Inland Mining outside Virginia, with Theron pushing the
plunger to detonate it. The “explosion was fantastic,’’ said Claybourne.

“A few of us got trained in the crusher and driving truck,’’ said Schwimmer,
who said she used to spend summers in Minnesota in Bemidji with her family.

“It was fun crushing rock the size of Volkswagens,’’ said Armenante,
who stars in “Judging Amy’’ on CBS. “It’s really, really hard work.’’

Theron said it has been fun “to hang out with a lot of community people...
picking their brains. You can only do that as an actor if people are willing
to do that.’’

Harrelson, who was at the Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Hibbing hockey
game on Tuesday, said Blue Devils Coach Keith Hendrickson has been
helping him learn how to play. “At present I suck,’’ he joked. “I’m just
slowly learning it.’’

As for the accents in the movie, Caro said it’s important “that we get the
dialect as specific as possible’’ and they have been “working incredibly
hard to sound like you guys.’’ They are talking with as many Iron Range
people as possible to learn the manners of speaking.

What they have learned about the Range:
Theron talked about an evening at The Whistling Bird restaurant in Gilbert.
“I sat down at the bar. I had a hat on. The bartender didn’t recognize me.
His name was Scott — he was lovely.’’ Besides that, she said she loves the
bright Jamaican theme, “the beachy music playing’’ and the Red Stripe beer.

Schwimmer gave a thumbs-up to Vi’s Pizza in Biwabik and to Valentini’s
in Chisholm. Said Claybourne, “We have been welcomed with open arms
and have had nothing but cooperation.’’

They’re getting used to the weather, with the help of heaters to keep their
camera equipment from freezing up — and Theron said she loves the fresh
snow, as long as she’s looking at it from the inside of a house through a
window. Some of the cast members have even tried dog-sledding.

What’s their impression of the story:
“It’s a great script,’’ said Theron. “I hope you guys know you changed how
things are for women all over the world and especially in America. For me
to be a part of a story like that — it’s some big shoes to fill, to play a
character like this. Every fiber of my body believes you guys should be
very proud of this.’’

The director said of the sexual harassment, “The disgraceful thing that
was happening here was happening everywhere else.’’

Theron said she is “fascinated by people who can get themselves into a
situation and realize something that others might now see.’’ She said
she admires the character she plays for standing up to the harassment.
“It’s a lonely road, to make a statement like that when you’re one of the
new people to come to work.’’

For Caro it was important to set the story in Minnesota. “There’s no way
we weren’t going to shoot as much as we could shoot in Minnesota. The
landscape is incredible and people are good-looking.’’

Asked why the movie is set in a later time than the actual events, which
took place in the 1970s, Caro said she chose 1989-91 because “the words
sexual harassment’’ were being talked about more widely.

Claybourne praised the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board —
“triple IRP,’’ he called it — for its support. To help pave the way for filming
of the movie in the area, the Iron Range Resources Board approved a 10
percent rebate, with a cap of $200,000, for money spent in the Taconite
Tax Relief Area during filming.

As to how many area people will appear as extras, Claybourne said it will
“probably be 5,000 in two days.’’ And of the film Caro said, “I promise you,
it will be beautiful.’’

When the press conference ended, Harrelson spent more than 30 minutes
in the lobby signing autographs and smiling for pictures.


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