Editor’s Note: If you’re watching the Oscars on Sunday night, you may want to pay special attention to Little Women, the film on this year’s list with the strongest connections to Bedford!
In 2018, the Columbia Pictures film Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig, was shot on location in the Boston area. The Oscar-nominated film was released on Christmas Day 2019 and is up for 6 Oscar awards at the 92nd Annual Oscar Awards on Sunday, February 9. The film has many local ties, including 3 local actors who enjoyed being extras in the production that features major Hollywood stars.
Liam Buckley and Jennifer Buckley
Sixteen-year-old Liam Buckley is heavily involved in acting with Bedford High School Performing Arts and is currently working to break into film and TV acting. Little Women was his first-ever paid acting role, playing an extra in the Paris park scene featuring Meryl Streep as Aunt March, Florence Pugh as Amy, and Timothee Chalamet as Laurie.
The role required a pre-shoot costume fitting with the production team before Liam’s scene was shot in October 2019 at Boston’s Arnold Arboretum. Says Buckley, “It was a surreal day, but felt natural at the same time. Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet and Florence Pugh were just footsteps away from me throughout the day. I learned a lot about the production process just in that one day, and it solidified my goal to be in the film and entertainment world. What a great experience to have for my first extra role.”
Jennifer Buckley, Liam’s mother, added, “It really was an incredible day. We had no idea what to expect and it was pretty magical. It was a huge set with so many production people, large cameras and equipment, horses and carriages, and dozens of people in costume.
“Because Liam is a minor, I had to be on set with him all day. I was definitely more nervous than he was! He was on his feet in his costume for about 9 hours and stayed in his spot patiently waiting for instructions. I got to stand right behind Greta Gerwig most of the day and was in awe of watching her work. Plus I had to try not to stare at the actors all day! The entire production staff was so professional and kind to us.
“It was a day we’ll both never forget. When the film came out, we weren’t able to see Liam clearly in his scene, only off in the distance in a scene from the film’s trailer. But it didn’t matter to him. It was all about the experience.”
Elena Pellegrino is a Bedford resident and also an experienced actor. Says Pellegrino, “I’m in the scene where Jo is dancing with Friedrich in the tavern. I can be seen in the film. And a fun fact – we actually danced to hip hop music when filming, not fiddles! I also worked on the scene where Jo runs by vendors.
“I have been a background actor in New England filmed movies since 2007,” she continued. Pellegrino has been featured in over 40 films and joined is a member of the actors union, SAG-AFTRA.
When asked about her favorites, she says “I love period pieces the most, like Little Women, because we get to wear authentic wardrobe.”
Bedford resident Jason Gould was perhaps the most surprised at his good fortune to be part of the film. Says Gould, “I had no plans to be a part of Little Women. When the casting agency put out a call for extras, only my wife and daughters were interested in participating. My wife submitted applications and included my information as an afterthought. Much to our surprise, I received a message the following week instructing me to avoid shaving or cutting my hair until further notice in order to achieve an authentic 1800’s look.”
Gould worked on two separate sets. “The first was a recreation of the streets of New York City filmed at City Hall Plaza in Lawrence,” said Gould. “It was a long (14 hours), cold, dreary October day that somehow ended up looking perfect in the movie. I acted as a shopkeeper and merchant in a variety of scenes that day and can be seen crossing purposefully in front of Jo (Saoirse Ronan) as she walks through the crowded streets of NYC late in the film. The purposeful expression on my face can be attributed to me trying to time my crossing to get as close to Jo as possible and hopefully end up on screen. It worked!”
Two weeks later, he spent an evening as a theater guest, filming the interior shots for the double date featuring Meg (Emma Watson) and their suitors Laurie and John Brooke (James Norton) at the Vaudeville show in Concord. “While the exterior shots for this scene were filmed in Harvard,” Gould continued, “the interior shots were filmed near Concord center at the Concord Scout House. When the extras were being placed in the theater, I targeted a seat near the actors’ stand-ins. I initially ended up in their row and was delighted to meet Emma Watson when she arrived to take her place for the scenes. After a few test shots, the production team rearranged some of the guests and I was moved to a seat behind the main actors.
“As a result, I can be seen over Meg’s shoulder throughout the theater scene in the movie. The experience of working on the project in 2018 and later watching it come to life on screen in 2020 was both thrilling and eye-opening. It’s incredible to see up close how much time, effort and attention to detail is required to create a movie like Little Women. And now I have a new hobby as a film and TV extra,” concluded Gould!
Seeing Stars through Bedford’s Eyes
Several residents have fond memories of the film through connections to the actors while they lived locally — riding a Lime Bike, shopping at CVS, or putting her recycling out. And several local businesses — particularly realtors and personal service professionals, worked closely with the actors and the production company.
Many residents were thrilled to hear Saoirse Ronan’s reference to the town of Bedford, MA during her chat with reporters on the red carpet before the Golden Globe Awards in January. And Ronan also mentioned “Bedford, in Massachusetts” on Late Night with Seth Meyers. The complex of ‘older adults’ Ronan mentions on the tape, however, is not Carleton-Willard Village.