Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NIAGARA FALLS — The Falls’ historic cataracts again got the star treatment on Thursday.
A trio of Hollywood’s biggest names spent the better part of the day filming scenes on the observation tower at Prospect Point and at the Cave of the Winds. Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon and fellow actresses Melissa McCarthy and Kathy Bates were among the cast involved in the shoot for the upcoming movie, “Tammy.”
During a brief session with local media members following Thursday’s film shoot, McCarthy, who co-wrote the film with her husband, Ben, said her first-ever trip to see the falls came with its share of ‘wow’ moments, including a thrilling tour of the Cave of the Winds. She was joined on set by her daughters, Vivian and Georgette, who were also able to enjoy their first up-close view of the mighty cataracts.
“This has been amazing,” she said. “I’ve never been to Niagara before and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. I called my mom and dad back home and said, ‘Why haven’t we been here?’
“It’s really been kind of overwhelming,” she added.
McCarthy, the star of the CBS show “Mike and Molly” who gained notoriety as a comedic actress following a memorable appearance in the film, “Bridesmaids,” said the falls, including the Cave of the Winds, will be featured prominently at the end of her new film. “Tammy” also marks her husband’s directorial debut.
McCarthy plays the title role of Tammy, a woman who decides to head out on a road trip after getting fired and learning that her husband has been cheating on her. Having just totaled her clunker car, the down-on-her-luck character has only one option for leaving town — joining her grandmother, Pearl, played by Sarandon.
As the story goes, Sarandon’s character and her late husband in the movie had always wanted to visit Niagara Falls, but life’s circumstances got in the way and they didn’t make it before he died.
McCarthy said the movie, which also features the likes of Dan Akroyd and Allison Janney, ends in a “sweet” way for the various characters involved.
“Cave of the Winds was like we finally did it,” she said. “It was like we finally crossed the finish line.”
She called working with the likes of Sarandon and Bates “ridiculous” and a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.
“Probably once or twice a day Ben and I look at each other and say ‘Is this happening, is this like a great dream that we’re going to wake up from and find out it’s not real?’” she said. “But, so far, I haven’t waken up.”
When asked why she and her husband chose Niagara Falls for the film’s climactic scenes, McCarthy said it just felt right. She said they both considered it a unique place everyone should see at least once in their lives.
“It seemed like it had to be something kind of big and amazing,” she said.
Onlookers were able to catch a glimpse of the stars in action on Thursday, albeit from a distance. The film shoot on the observation tower could be seen from the Prospect Point viewing area above the falls.
For Pam Van Vleet, a Chicago resident who was visiting the park with her family on the last day of their four-day vacation, the presence of the celebrities came as a pleasant surprise.
“I think it’s cool,” she said. “I think it’s great that they are filming in the United States.”
Norm Schneider, a Getzville resident works at the Niagara Sausage Co. in Niagara Falls, said he came down to simply spend some time in the park, not knowing Sarandon and company would be visiting as well.
“I came down just to see the falls,” he said. “It’s been awhile. It is pretty exciting to get some celebrities down here. It’s got to help the area to get some big names down here and revive the place again.”
Less impressed was Eddie Hollins, a visitor from Houston who was taking in the sights as part of a trip with his family. Hollins, who is in the limousine business, said he’s seen his share of celebrities over the years and was more interested in seeing water rush over the falls.
“I had no clue,” Hollins said. “I’ve seen some movie stars in the business I do. I got to see them up close and personal. The falls are great. It’s one of the natural wonders of the world.”
The film’s cast and crew — a total of about 80 people — arrived in the falls on Wednesday, staying in area hotels. The one-day shoot wrapped up by mid afternoon on Thursday. The film is expected to be released July 2, 2014.
“We love this kind of thing,” State parks spokesperson Angela Berti said. “It obviously provides great visibility for the falls and the city. It’s exciting for us.”