June 9,  2008

‘Nights in Rodanthe’ will be in a theater near you on Oct. 3


“Nights in Rodanthe,” the film based on the best-selling Nicholas Sparks novel by the same name, is scheduled to be released on Oct. 3, according to Warner Bros. Pictures.

The movie was filmed in North Carolina, much of it on Hatteras Island and the rest at studios in Wilmington.

The movie is Sparks’ fourth novel that has been adapted to the big screen.  Two of the others – “Message in a Bottle” and “The Notebook” -- became major Hollywood hits.

Richard Gere and Diane Lane star in this romantic tale of a surgeon who is struggling with an operation gone wrong and an estrangement from his son and a woman whose marriage has fallen apart.

Their paths cross at the fictional Inn at Rodanthe, where Lane as Adrienne Willis has escaped to contemplate her life and run her friend’s bed and breakfast for a week.  Gere, as Dr. Paul Flanner, has come to Rodanthe to make amends with the family of a woman who died of complications on the operating table and to contemplate his own complications in his relationship with his son, also a physician.

As it turns out, Flanner is the only guest at the inn, and he and Willis get “a second chance of a lifetime,” or so says the film’s publicity trailer, and fall in love as a hurricane comes ashore. (In the book, it is a northeaster.) They cement their new romance with a party with local folks after the storm at Rodanthe Pier and then separate with plans to meet again.

Much of the movie was filmed on location on Hatteras Island, mostly in Rodanthe.  Serendipity, the northernmost house in Mirlo Beach at the northern edge of Rodanthe, was all gussied up by the Hollywood construction crews to become the inn.  Other scenes were filmed at JoBob’s Trading Post, the Hatteras Island Fishing Pier at Rodanthe, the Rodanthe beach, Highway 12, and the Hatteras Inlet ferry docks.  Some scenes were filmed in Manteo, and the interiors were finished in Wilmington.

Many islanders were excited to be hired as extras in the various scenes.  They spent a lot of time being outfitted and waiting to be called to the set, but none seemed to mind.  Now they all want to know if their scenes made the final cut and into the film.

Also featured playing music at the post-hurricane party are island musicians, including Ocracoke’s Jule Garrish, who sings the ballad, “Before I Met You,” which is the slow waltz that Gere and Lane danced to at the post-hurricane party on the Rodanthe Pier.

The production crews and the actors spent weeks on Hatteras last May.  Their time here was lengthened by – a storm.  In an interesting case of life imitates art, a spring northeaster delayed the start of filming in Rodanthe by almost a week – but also produced some good storm shots and surging tides for the hurricane scenes.  Ironically, many of the hurricane scenes were shot on a bright sunny day with large screens filtering out sunlight and the Chicamacomico Banks Fire Department’s truck providing the rain.

Islanders spent a good deal of time waiting for a glimpse of stars Gere and Lane, who pretty much kept to themselves and gave no interviews to the local media.  Most of the attention focused on heartthrob Richard Gere.  Local women gathered at many sites where there was filming, but didn’t get very close to him – except at the Hatteras Inlet ferry docks.  A column about that encounter, “Stalking Richard Gere,” that I wrote when I was the editor of The Island Breeze follows this article.

The film is produced by Denise DiNovi Productions and was directed by George Wolfe, whose credits include a Tony Award for “Angels in America” and a Director’s Guild Award for “Lackawanna Blues.”

It was an interesting couple weeks of moviemaking last May as Hollywood met Hatteras Island.

Carolyn McCormick, managing director of the Dare County Visitors Bureau, says that she imagines the film’s premiere will be in New York City or Los Angeles.  She added that there will be private screenings the week of the premiere at the “Discover America” travel show in Toronto and Montreal.

“We’re looking at every opportunity with this movie to build the tourist market,” McCormick said, adding that it’s a perfect opportunity to build awareness of Rodanthe and the Outer Banks.

In some movie theaters, a trailer for “Nights in Rodanthe” preceded the showing of the much anticipated “Sex in the City” film. 

It’s possible, she said, that there could be an event on the Outer Banks about the time of the film’s release.

To see a trailer for “Nights in Rodanthe,” click here.


(The following article is reprinted from the June, 2007, issue of The Island Breeze.)

Editor’s Notebook: Stalking Richard Gere


The morning after, I couldn’t believe I had really done it.

A week later, I still can’t believe I did it.

I joined a band of women searching for Hollywood heartthrob Richard Gere, who was here to star in the movie version of Nicholas Sparks’ bestseller, “Nights in Rodanthe.”

We knew that the movie company was filming a scene at the ferry docks in Hatteras village, but we didn’t know whether Gere was involved.  And access to the actor had been very restricted during more than a week’s worth of filming in Rodanthe. Shooting locations were blocked by law enforcement officers, and folks who got too close to sets were chased away by the movie crew. A very officious publicist had told me that there we be no interviews with Gere or his co-star, Diane Lane.  In fact, there would be no photo opportunities for the local media.

But we decided to try our luck at the ferry docks anyway.

It was a cool, windy, gray Friday on the island.  At The Island Breeze, we heard that the filming would start about 2 p.m.  So at the appointed time, we bundled up and trooped over to Hatteras Landing to check out the action. 

Indeed, the moviemakers were there to film a scene in the closest of the three ferry lanes to the landing.  A smallish crowd of locals and tourists had gathered on the Endless Summer deck.  A group of about two dozen vehicles, specially chosen by the moviemakers, were lined up to be loaded on the ferry.  The vehicles were driven by locals who were hired as extras for the scene. There were a few beat-up Hatteras trucks, a few regular looking sedans, a fishhouse truck, and a silver Jaguar.

We knew the Jaguar would be for Gere’s character, a retired doctor on a journey to reconcile with his estranged son who meets a middle-age divorcee and falls in love in Rodanthe.

But would Gere show up?  Or would the Jag be driven by his stand-in?

We didn’t have to wait long to find out.

In about 10 minutes, a silver Cadillac drove up next to the ferry line, and Richard Gere stepped out of the back seat.

The onlookers were excited but restrained. Someone from the film company shooed us off the deck, which was to be in the scene.  Everyone headed to a spot behind the cars in line.  The production guy was chatty and explained that the company was filming the scene in which Gere’s character arrives on Hatteras.

It did occur to us that the vehicles were headed in the wrong direction – loading on a ferry that was leaving Hatteras -- but, hey, this is the movies.

Gere got in the Jaguar, and a few of us moved around next to his Cadillac to get a better view of him sitting in the car.  No one shooed us away, and we endured the biting wind and intermittent drizzle just to watch.

When the filmmakers were set up, the vehicles were directed to proceed onto the ferry.  As soon as the first in line drove onto the boat, someone yelled, “Cut,” just like in the movies.  All the vehicles stopped and were then backed off the ferry and back into the line.  This was repeated a half dozen or so times.

I’m happy to report that Richard Gere can drive his own Jag forward and backward.

So we were still standing by the Cadillac when Richard Gere headed toward the car.  There were about a dozen of us.  You could hear all the women holding their breath with excitement.

Then he was at the door on the other side of the car, just six feet or so from us.  The husband of a local asked him if the people on Hatteras weren’t the nicest anywhere.

“Best I’ve ever seen,” he replied and waved at us.

Again, we behaved, but there wasn’t a woman in that group that wasn’t ready to faint.  Donna Barnett, Island Breeze graphic designer, took the photo that appears on this page.  She noted later when she viewed the picture that he was looking right at her.

He wasn’t effusive, but he was friendly.  And you can see the bemused, or maybe amused, look on his face as he surveyed the little group of swooning women.

Then he was called back by the filmmakers.  They conferred for a few minutes, and he headed back to the Cadillac – this time on the side on which we were lined up.  He opened the door to get in, just a few feet from us.

At this point, Donna Barnett admitted to getting so shook up that all she managed to shoot with her camera was a photo of the car’s tire.

Gere was whisked away, and we figured the excitement was over.  We headed back to The Breeze office to look at the photos and to call and send them to everyone we could think of.  Soon, we got a phone call that Gere was back at the ferry.  We headed out again.

At this point, all of the vehicles, including the Jaguar, were loaded on the ferry, aptly named Chicamacomico.  A group of locals, who were to portray other ferry riders, trooped onto the boat.  Then, Gere got out of his Cadillac and walked onto the ferry. There was still a small group of admirers who waved and greeted him.  He waved back.

We watched for a while and nothing much happened. Members of the film crew went back and forth loading equipment.  We left again and went about the work of sending Donna’s photo to everyone we know – and they in turn sent it to everyone they know.

After we left, the Chicamacomico pulled out of the slip at the dock and made about three trips back and forth to Ocracoke for the better part of three hours in the nasty weather while the crew filmed the doctor’s arrival on Hatteras.    

Later, none of us could explain why we behaved like a bunch of groupies greeting a rock star.  However, we all agreed that Gere is still a hunk at 57.  He sprang onto the radar screen of American women with the 1982 film, “An Officer and a Gentleman,” and cemented his heartthrob status with “Pretty Woman” in 1990.

And in 2007, I can tell you, he still very nice to look at.  I might add that his groupies that day included women of all ages – from young mothers to grandmothers.

While Gere got pasted onto the desktops of more than half of the women on Hatteras Island and we recounted our stalking adventures, Dare County was no doubt counting the money that the filmmakers brought into the community.

Apparently, the ban on speaking to the stars extended to the film company also.  So I had to submit my questions for executive producer Doug Claybourne to Warner Brothers publicist Pat Story, who called me with the answers.

Claybourne said that the production company spent about $1 million in Dare County in preparation work and in the two weeks of filming.  The trickle-down effect, which counts additional dollars spent by the cast and crew, he said, could approach $3 to $4 million.

Carolyn McCormick, director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, ticked off a list of the businesses that she knew had profited from the moviemaking. 

The company rented at least 100 hotel rooms, and about 15 houses in the Rodanthe area. It also paid to relocate some renters who were too close for the company’s liking to the cottage in Rodanthe’s Mirlo Beach that became “The Inn at Rodanthe,” where Gere’s and Lane’s characters meet and fall in love.

The filmmakers paid for extensive repairs and additions to the house, which had been badly damaged by a northeaster last Thanksgiving – and many storms before that.

They paid to use the Hatteras Island Fishing Pier in Rodanthe for many scenes.  The director was said to be quite smitten with the pier location.  They paid to film at JoBob’s store.  And they paid for caterers, coffee deliveries, rental cars, gas, cleaners, flowers, for the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative to set up wiring for special lights.  The Chicamacomico Banks Fire Department was compensated for providing a spray of water to make rain during a hurricane, and the crew rented the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Building for two weeks. In addition, several hundred extras and 10 musicians from the area were paid to appear in the movie.

Because of a state film tax incentive program that became effective Jan. 1, Warner Brothers and DiNovi Pictures, the production company, will get a nice tax credit of 15 percent for all the goods, services, and labor it purchased in North Carolina.

That’s nice for them, but it’s also nice for us.

And McCormick notes that it will continue to be nice for the Outer Banks when the film is released, which is now planned for next June.  She would like to see an Outer Banks premiere, but, no matter, many movie watchers will get to see the beauty of the area.

Actually, it is quite extraordinary that the filmmakers committed to filming on Hatteras, given the remote location and the lack of services that are more readily available in larger cities and communities.

Executive producer Claybourne said that the decision to come here was made because the location is “isolated, magical, beautiful, and remote.”

“We could not replicate it in Wilmington,” he said.  That city is where the interior shots are being filmed in a studio.

The Hatteras filming, Claybourne added, was “a blessing and a curse.”

He was referring to the fact that the filmmakers literally blew into town. In an extraordinary example of life imitating art, the weekend before the company was scheduled to begin filming at the repaired and newly renovated “Inn at Rodanthe,” a northeaster formed off the Outer Banks. Winds blew a steady 35 to 45 with gusts to 60 for several days and whipped the seas up into waves that reached 20 feet offshore. 

A northeaster is a major player in the novel by Sparks.  The filmmakers changed it to a hurricane, which it almost seemed like.

The ocean overwash at Mirlo Beach closed Highway 12 for more than a day, leaving some of the company stranded in Rodanthe and others up the beach unable to get down the road.  Furthermore, the storm destroyed some of the work on the house, which had to be repaired again before filming started almost a week late.

“We tried to take advantage as best we could,” Claybourne said.  The crew did manage to get film of the spectacularly rough ocean.

Claybourne added that local folks were most responsive when the company needed help during the storm crisis and were, in general, hospitable and “easy to get to know” people.

Looking back on the storm, he said, “I see it as a good omen for the movie.  We were lucky it came and then that it ended when it did.  We were blessed.”

Looking back, I guess you could say it was a memorable two weeks for the Hollywood folks who met Hatteras Island and for the islanders who met the Hollywood folks.

So, why did so many women stalk Richard Gere?

Because he was here, of course. 

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