Patrick Swayze movie shoot spends the day on East Lake Road |

Patrick Swayze movie shoot spends the day on East Lake Road

Teya Vitu

WASHOE VALLEY – Patrick Swayze, Billy Bob Thornton, Natasha Richardson and Cherlize Theron spent Monday from dawn to dusk stuck in a traffic jam on East Lake Boulevard.

The Hollywood stars had a one-day shoot near Washoe Lake State Park for a “redneck romantic comedy” called “Wakin’ Up in Reno” that won’t be in theaters until late this year or early next year.

The film crew spent the entire day on East Lake Boulevard in and near the park to capture footage that will probably add up to less than a minute of screen time, film producer Ben Myron said.

Thornton, Swayze, Richardson and Theron are on a road trip from Arkansas to Reno when they encounter a traffic jam caused by a minor accident. Thornton’s character lives very much on a schedule and the East Lake incident, naturally, gets in the way of his scheduled existence.

“This is just another thing happening to them on the way to Reno,” Myron said.

The plot concerns two couples. Before the movie started, one husband slept with the other’s wife and this detail comes out during the drive and escalates when the foursome arrives in Reno.

The film shoot will be in Reno for the rest of the week, filming at Fitzgeralds, Cal-Neva, the Eldorado and some downtown street scenes. Filming started a week ago in Amarillo and came to Northern Nevada after five days work in Texas. After the Reno filming, the production moves to Los Angeles, Myron said.

Reno-based location manager Tim Wilson found the East Lake location for the traffic scene as the story approaches Reno. He said the film’s director appreciated the mountains, Washoe Lake and how the road goes around the lake.

The location used is very near where a scene for John Wayne’s last movie, “The Shootist,” was filmed with Lauren Bacall in early 1976.

The cameo role played by winter weather Sunday and Monday worked right into a slight alteration to the script made in Texas.

“We actually got some weather in Amarillo,” Myron said. “We threw in a line of dialogue that there are better rates in Reno because of winter rates.”

Myron also produced Thornton’s 1992 breakthrough movie, “One False Move.” He said the two of them came up with the idea for “Wakin’ Up in Reno” about three years ago and it has taken that long to develop the idea and get into production.

East Lake Boulevard was closed to through traffic from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and the filming location could not be seen from either roadblock. Even the production’s base camp was out of sight and a five-minute shuttle ride away.

Some 30 extras, living mostly in Carson City and Reno and hired for the day at minimum wage, spent large portions of the day in a large tent set up in the state park parking lot. Mikki Reissman of Carson City showed up at 7 a.m. and by lunch she still had not left the tent.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do (in the movie),” Reissman said. “I’m hoping to meet the stars. I saw Billy Bob Thornton in the morning.”

She and some fellow extras from Reno spent the morning talking and playing cards.

The Nevada Film Office, based in Carson City, helped the production team cut through the red tape to gain approval for road closures, park usage and lessening the inconvenience to nearby residents.

“The Nevada Film Office has been phenomenal in helping open doors for us,” Myron said. “You can spend a lot of time in a new place to figure out how to make things work.”

Robin Holabird, the film office’s deputy director, said her office would have recommended a more isolated road, but she added that the production company quickly dealt with any local concerns.

“They deserve a plug for being responsive to community needs,” Holabird said.

“Wakin’ Up in Reno” is the first feature film to shoot in Northern Nevada this year, and Holabird said its visit is pumping several hundred thousand dollars, perhaps more than $1 million, into the local economy. Most of the 200 crew members and all the extras were hired locally.

From a public relations standpoint, Holabird lights up when talking about the title featuring Reno.

“We like a movie with our name in the title,” Holabird said. “We like this. Reno hasn’t been in a movie title in a long time.”