Inside D.C. entertainment

'J. Edgar,' 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' might film in D.C.

February 16, 2011 - 11:03 AM
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Leonardo DiCaprio J Edgar
Leo would never throw coffee in a paparazzo's face. (Photo: Associated Press)

The celebrity hangover that has crippled our region — and the TBD Arts blog — since Transformers left town may soon lift, thanks to two Hollywood movies with disparate takes on American history. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's popular mashup novel, and J. Edgar, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, both might film in D.C. this year, according to the Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.

In an email from film office spokeswoman Leslie Green, both movies — as well as Veep, an HBO pilot starring Julia Louis Dreyfus as the vice president — are named as "potential projects," meaning the respective production companies have expressed interest in filming in the District. Possible filming dates for J. Edgar and Veep are listed as "TBD," but Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is tentatively scheduled to shoot here from June 30 – July 1. For those unfamiliar with the Gregorian calendar, that means two days of filming.

What that also means: Either the film's director, Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted), and co-producer, Tim Burton, are extremely efficient filmmakers, or only the second unit will be coming town — and thus, no director or principal actors, which include Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Benjamin Walker, and possibly Joaquin Phoenix. For potential filming locations, the U.S. Capitol building seems the most likely, considering the Washington Monument was only partially completed during Lincoln's life. I assume we can rule out the Lincoln Memorial, too, but you never know, considering the material.

My hopes rest instead on J. Edgar, which will also star Naomi Watts, Josh Lucas, Judi Dench, and Ed "Chuck Bass" Westwick. Given that Hoover directed the F.B.I. from 1935 – 1972, most of today's buildings stood during his time. Eastwood has always been keen on authenticity, and certainly will want to spend at least a day or two shooting around the Department of Justice Building. The F.B.I. didn't move into the J. Edgar Hoover Building until 1974, two years Hoover's death, so we don't have to worry about that monstrosity representing D.C. on the big screen. (Representatives for Lincoln, J. Edgar, and Veep did not return calls seeking comment.)

Celebrity gawking aside, D.C. desperately needs these Hollywood productions to come to town, and to stay awhile. The film's office's annual performance report shows that the number of productions that filmed in the District only fell from 326 to 320 between fiscal years 2009 and 2010, but that the amount those productions spent — as reported by the productions themselves — plummeted from $26.25 million to $12.49 million. That drop, says Green, can be attributed to How Do You Know, which spent roughly $13 million in fiscal year 2009.

"If you subtract that one 'outlier,' then the amount spent in FY09 and FY10 are virtually the same," she wrote in an email to me. "One big production that comes into the city can skew numbers one way or the other."

All the more reason, then, to hope D.C. is overrun with vampires this summer.

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