‘Star Wars’ star in Surrey

SURREY – A star of the Star Wars movies attended a mayoral candidate’s re-election gala at city hall last Friday evening (Jan. 23).Well, sort of.That was Mark "Luke Skywalker" Hamill playing the bad guy on the set of The Flash, a first-season hit TV series for the CW network.The scene was a political event held in honour of Central City mayor Anthony Bellows, and The Trickster, played by guest actor Hamill, was there to poison the partygoers.The big atrium of Surrey’s fancy new city hall was a perfect fit for the shoot, said Greg Jackson, location manager for The Flash."We wanted something that looked like a city hall and it turned out to be a real city hall," Jackson told the Now during an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the set."This production seeks out locations that are of a large scale, really big scope, so we’re always looking for large interior spaces. We narrowed it down to here, Surrey city hall, and obviously has a great look – a brand new building, it’s enormous, it looks beautiful and, by luck, it is what it is for the script."During a "blocking" run-through of a scene at 5:30 p.m., Hamill wore a leather bomber jacket, scarf and toque before he and the other actors left the building for makeup and costume change.Filming began later that evening and continued until around 6 a.m. Saturday."After that, a separate wrap crew comes in and takes out the remaining equipment and tidies up, so by two or three o’clock (Saturday) afternoon, you’ll never know we were here," Jackson explained during an interview Friday afternoon.The Flash stars Grant Gustin as the superhero crimefighter, based on the speedy DC Comics character.Last year in Surrey, parts of the series were filmed at Guildford Town Centre, Tynehead Park and at the SFU Surrey/Central City Shopping Centre complex."Just by fluke, the series is set in a town called Central City, so that was a nice fit working there," Jackson said of the latter location.Surrey is a great place for film locations because it has a lot of different looks, he noted."It has modern buildings like this, with the city hall and the amazing library here, and then five minutes down the road you have country roads and farms, it has beaches, lakes, forests, and heavy industry, too. The fact that Surrey is so close to Vancouver, you’re still within the union zone, and that helps with additional outof-town costs."It was a record year in 2014 for filming in Surrey, according to Brandi Carr, who manages the City of Surrey’s film department."We had over 160 film days in the city last year, which equates to an economic benefit of roughly $1.6 million – that’s not what the city receives at all, it’s businesses, merchants like flower companies, caterers, restaurants, lumber supplies, property owners, all sorts of things," Carr told the Now."There are more than 15,000 Surrey residents who are employed in the film business, either directly or indirectly, so we know that filming is something that really benefits the city as a whole."Scenes for feature films The Interview, the controversial Seth Rogen comedy, and the forthcoming sci-fi flick Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney, were shot in Surrey last year."They did parts of The Interview at a banquet hall here," Carr said. "I’m not sure what scene was filmed, but I know that guns were involves, and shots fired. It was all done indoors."Another shot-in-Surrey new movie is The Age of Adaline, a romantic drama starring Blake Lively and another Star Wars star, Harrison Ford. "They filmed at Green Timbers, and in their trailers you can really see Green Timbers, so it’s pretty cool," Carr enthused.She wouldn’t disclose the fee paid by The Flash production company for its shoot at city hall, but said it was kept to a "costrecovery" basis. "So that (fee) covers any of the staff required to be here overnight – the security and all those kinds of things."It showcases Surrey in such a great light," Carr continued, "and as long as taxpayers aren’t paying for it, it’s a win-win situation."Jackson’s job is help the show’s director and producers pick the best location for certain scenes."All this got planned last week, so it happens very quick," he said. "We came and looked at Surrey city hall last Thursday (Jan. 15), liked it, picked it and confirmed with (Carr) that it was available, so we lock that in and then chip away at the details after time – times and logistics. It all appears to be chaotic and madness, but it’s really organized chaos."The episode filmed at city hall will air sometime in April, near the end of The Flash’s first season."We just got picked up for a second season, which is great," Jackson said. "We’ll finish this first season in mid-April and then we’ll be back shooting again in July for season two…. I’m sure we’ll find a way to shoot in Surrey again, because the people here are great, but we’re always at the whim of the script. We just don’t know where we’ll be until the script arrives."tzillich@thenownewspaper.com

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