A study earlier this year reported that more feature film productions were hosted in Georgia than anywhere else in the world. That got me to thinking: are we cool enough here in Atlanta now where if we saw Ben Stiller walking down one of the Peachtree Streets, or Scarlett Johansson sipping a coffee at Alon’s Bakery, or Clint Eastwood eating at Chops: would we just notice and let them go about their business? Or are we still making a big fuss?
When I was 14, my parents took the family on a tour of Europe. I was impressed by the churches, history and culture. But the thing I talked about most was us staying in the same hotel as Guns and Roses in Munich, Germany. There were fans constantly waiting near the entrance of the hotel and we caught glimpses of Slash walking around with his top hat on.
While my parents wanted to tour the city, my brother and I wanted to stake out the band. We got lucky when my brother spotted the band’s bassist, Duff McKagan, jogging around the halls on our floor. He couldn’t go in the streets because he would have gotten mobbed. So he ran around and around the halls with his Guns and Roses’s hoodie on.
My brother and I went in the hall and tried to play it cool, which was hard to do standing against a hotel hall wall staring at the ceiling every time Duff passed by. I guess it was obvious and Duff, who turned out to be quite the gentleman, stopped jogging, pulled off his hood and asked us, “what’s up fellas?” I stammered something awkward at him. And he stood there and talked, and he asked us normal questions about our trip. The conversation was incredibly friendly and it was just getting rolling – when over his shoulder I saw my mom walking toward us.
“Who are you talking to boys?” she asked in a tone that could not have been more mom-sounding. Duff turned, offered his hand and introduced himself.
“Oh, are you in a band?” she asked.
“Yes ma’am. I’m in a band called Guns and Roses,” he said.
“Oh, have you been playing together for a while,” she asked.
My brother and I could not have been more mortified. But my mom is from Philly. And folks from Philly don’t impress easily, especially when they see their boys falling all over themselves to act cool in front of a heavy metal bassist.
I don’t live intown Atlanta, but I have seen my fair share of movie-star sightings here. I saw Paul Rudd at Legoland. I may have seen Kevin Spacey come out of Little Alley on Canton Street. I’m sure there were others. But for folks intown, it should be a common occurrence.
Last year, 23 feature films were shot in Georgia. Among those were “Captain America: Civil War,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Fast and Furious,” “Felt,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.” Successful series including “The Walking Dead” and Netflix’s original “Ozark” are also filmed here. In 2016, it is estimated that films and television spent $2.02 billion in our state. That’s a lot of money.
The films “Passengers,” “The 5th Wave,” “Allegiant” and “Captain America: Civil War” spent $476.4 million on locations alone.
This isn’t a passing phase for Georgia. The film industry has set deep roots. The metro area is now dotted with film studios, some that cost near $100 million to build. It’s amazing what we spend to entertain ourselves these days. But if it’s going to be spent, better here. And we’ll take it all in stride, as though it is just one of many industries now thriving in the ATL.