The police detail is gone. Yellow “No Crew Parking” signs have been removed. Rubbernecking traffic has returned to normal chaos at the intersection of Brooksbie Road and Page Road. But for two months this spring, the Wedgewood Swim & Tennis Club played host to big movie production.
The town has been abuzz with hints and guesses about the filming, especially on social media. However, with Wedgewood members and the film’s extras bound by confidentiality agreements, only some facts have been confirmed. Wedgewood’s co-president, Brenda Kenahan, told The Citizen that misinformation has spread through social media, but she is not yet at liberty to correct it. She intends to write a summary of the production for Wedgewood members and expects to share it with The Citizen when she is released from confidentiality.
Despite the secrecy surrounding the shoot, a couple of extras, as well as Town Manager Sarah Stanton, shared general impressions of their interactions with the production company. Sylvie Denny-Brown, a 6th grader at JGMS who recently appeared in the school’s production of High School Musical Jr., signed up to be an extra but her filming date was canceled due to weather. Denny-Brown called it a “once-in-a-lifetime experience that [she] had to take.” She explained that all Wedgewood members had been invited via email to submit applications to be extras, a process that involved submitting two pictures of herself, including one showing her in action playing tennis. Naturally, she was disappointed when her scene was canceled, especially after the inconvenience of driving “into Boston to get [Covid] tested before 8 a.m. a day prior to when we were supposed to be filming” and the hassle of the shoot “continuously mov[ing] the dates of filming without an abundance of information.” However, her overall impression of the experience was positive.
Elena Rozzi Pellegrino, a Bedford psychotherapist, has appeared as an extra in almost 60 feature films, now including Challengers. While she could not discuss specifics of the film, her experience as an extra generally has been fun but requires patience: “It can be really long days, typically up to 12 hours. Sometimes the days go by fast and busy, other times there can be lots of hurry up and waiting.” Despite that, she encourages other Bedford residents to reach out to her if they have an interest in being an extra in future films. She said she is happy to help others learn the process.
A neighbor, who is also a Wedgewood member but wishes to remain anonymous because of the confidentiality agreements, stated that the production company was a good neighbor. She called them “respectful of our space” and also commended Wedgewood’s board for giving members “plenty of notice and [doing] a fantastic job communicating what they could about what was happening.” Her family could hear construction during the early phases of the shoot and later could sometimes hear the director calling out a scene. According to her, members were still allowed to use the tennis courts and were even invited to “visit the set with the location manager and … see them film a scene with all the stars in it.” She found it “fascinating to see how much goes into making even just a 30-second snippet of film for a movie.”
Town Manager Sarah Stanton agreed that the production company was a good partner, calling them “mindful of neighbors, noise, and work[ing] closely with Town staff to ensure minimal impact.” She also noted that the production covered all related DPW and police costs. Rozzi Pellegrino reported that she had heard the production company had also “made some upgrades and improvements” at Wedgewood.
Bedford’s brush with fame seems to have been a positive one. But will this propel the town into becoming a mecca for feature films? Stanton admitted that the production company had not shared why they chose Bedford as a location. Looking at other news coverage, it’s clear that additional filming took place in Lynn and Boston. Stanton said location scouts had been in Bedford a few months, but she thinks “all of Greater Boston is being considered as potential film locations,” which she called “wonderful for the region and future travel and tourism.”
Challengers, starring Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor and directed by Call Me By Your Name’s Luca Guadagnino, wrapped its Bedford shoot last week. The film centers on Art (Mike Faist) and Tashi (Zendaya), a husband and wife trying to jumpstart Art’s professional tennis career. It also promises a love triangle, with Josh O’Connor’s character, Patrick, being not only Art’s rival and former best friend but also Tashi’s ex-boyfriend. According to the Twitter account Film Updates, the movie is expected to be released on August 11, 2023. The Citizen reached out to the production company, Pascal Pictures, and their PR firm but did not receive a response before press time.