Residents couldn’t really park for 10 cents all day in Hamilton on Monday, but if they were lucky, they might have seen Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara filming the movie “Carol” around Kostas Restaurant on Court Street Monday.
Film crews transformed the street from present day Hamilton to 1950s Philadelphia, calling Kostas the Liberty Bell Diner. Because the scene takes place around Christmas, set decorators sprayed movie snow made from mashed potato flakes, and Christmas wreaths were placed on nearby light poles. Eight to 10 cars from the 1950s were parked across the street, complete with extras and drivers dressed in vintage hats and suits.
Meanwhile, police officers made the scene anachronistic, wheeling around on segways, while dozens of passers-by held up cell phones and tablets, hoping for a glimpse of Blanchett or Mara.
“I’m assuming in the scene, here, she’ll be walking up the sidewalk into the shop,” said Lee Perkins of Hamilton, referring to Blanchett.
“It’s good for the community, I think. It makes you feel like you’re somebody,” said Dennis Bobbitt of Hamilton.
Wilma Gadd, who has been a server at Kostas for nearly 40 years, said, “This is very exciting. Nothing like this has ever happened around here.” She said Blanchett and Mara were in the restaurant that morning, but she hadn’t had the chance to meet them.
Blanchett won her first Oscar for playing Katharine Hebpurn in “The Aviator,” and she won her second this past February for her role in “Blue Jasmine.” Mara is best known for playing the title role in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” for which she was Oscar-nominated.
Young Kim, the owner of Kostas, was showing people cell phone pictures she had taken of Blanchett and Mara, telling many onlookers how great the experience had been.
“I have never seen anything like this … they like it here. (The crew) tells me they love my restaurant,” she said.
A frequent customer at Kostas, Melissa Gray, said, “I’m so excited for Miss Kim, I can’t stand it. I’d just like to catch a small glimpse of Ms. Blanchett.”
She handed out copies of a letter the film crew had sent to various business owners in the area. It read, “(Police) will be working with us to insure you can access your business with minimal delay. Please observe the parking restriction signs, as it is imperative that we don’t see modern cars on the streets in camera view.”
Kenneth Schmidt, of Newport, Ky., cleaned his 1951 Buick Special across the street from Kostas. He answered an ad for old cars to appear in the movie.
“It ain’t going nowhere, I’m keeping it,” he said of his car.
Onlookers and the film crew spent most of the afternoon simply waiting as the crew filmed elsewhere or went about other business. One woman remarked, “There was an ad for extras. They said you had to be available all day. Now I know why.”
People gathered excitedly as police put up “No trespassing” tape and vintage cars rolled along Court Street, as filming was set to resume. The film crew was out in the county filming driving scenes early in the morning, according to production officials.
The movie has been filming around greater Cincinnati the past several weeks, shooting some scenes in Lebanon as well. The producers have said they chose the locations largely for their period architecture, which didn’t have to be modified.
The film is directed by Todd Haynes, whose credits include “Far From Heaven” and the HBO film of “Mildred Pierce.” “Carol” is based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” It tells the story of a department store clerk (Mara) who falls for an older, married woman (Blanchett).
See more photos from Monday’s filming in Hamilton here.