Vancouver Island's supporting role in Man of Steel
By: infilm on 06/14/13

It’s no Carnegie Hall, but that didn’t diminish Nanaimo native Allison Crowe’s excitement when she gigged at the Cassidy Inn Pub.

For someone who began her career playing bars in Nanaimo, you might say the Corner Brook, N.L.-based singer-songwriter had come full circle when she returned to her hometown after making a name for herself with albums and concert tours.

This was no ordinary bar gig, however. Crowe, 31, was making a cameo appearance in Man of Steel, Zack Snyder’s reboot of the Superman franchise, while also honouring another iconic dude — Johnny Cash.

“Zack had wanted to have my version of Hallelujah in Watchmen, but they said it was ‘too beautiful,’ which was OK,” laughed Crowe, recalling how Snyder and his producer-wife Deborah ended up featuring her in Man of Steel.

The couple, who had also considered Crowe for Sucker Punch, asked her to sing Cash’s Ring of Fire during a seven-day shoot in October 2011. The pub in the Cassidy Inn, which closed two years ago, was masquerading as an Alaskan loggers bar for the blockbuster. Before that, crews filmed in Ucluelet, which posed as Cordova, a tiny Alaskan fishing village.

Superman himself (Henry Cavill) came up, up and away, as did Lois Lane (Amy Adams) — for the Ucluelet sequences. Filming also took place at Burnaby’s Mammoth Studios, and in Chicago.

“He’s lovely, just so down-to-earth and friendly,” said Crowe, who met the British actor on the Nanaimo set and at a Christmas concert she performed for cast and crew.

Crowe’s thrilling experience continued at Monday’s New York première, where she reunited on the red carpet at Lincoln Center with Cavill and the Snyders. She also met Adams, Kevin Costner, Robin Wright and Hans Zimmer, and whose score was performed at an after-party at Skylight at Moynihan Station.

“It was surreal,” said Crowe, who was equally excited about seeing Alan Cumming in a production of Macbeth.

“It was so out of the realm of anything I’ve done before.”

Crowe, a fan of superhero movies (“I saw Dark Knight five times”) gave Man of Steel a thumbs-up.

Corey Trinkwon, who studied film and TV acting at Nanaimo’s Spotlight Academy, where founder Jacqui Kaese also taught a teenaged Crowe, capitalized on his own superhero obsession to land a spot in the bar scene.

“It was Christopher Reeve’s Superman that did it for me,” recalled Trinkwon, 25, who has a Superman tattoo and wore a Superman T-shirt and Clark Kent glasses to the casting call. “I loved his morals.”

Trinkwon was among dozens of Islanders hired as extras for Autumn Frost, as it was code-named.

Nick Touchie, an employee at Ucluelet Harbour Seafoods, described his on-camera experience as an “eye-opener.” It wasn’t just because he got close enough to realize that Cavill, soaking and shirtless, has natural abs of steel.

“The Man of Steel was hiding behind the house,” Touchie said, recalling a scene shot on First Nations land where a desperate Superman steals the commercial fisherman’s jacket and boots from his hatchback.

Second Hand Cargo thrift shop was passed off as a hunting-gear store, one of several businesses on Main Street redecorated for a street scene on a wet, windy day. Filming also took place in the harbour and at Spring Cove.

“There’s such an exciting buzz when you have a movie in town, whether it’s this or Twilight or The Big Year,” said Adele Larkin, general manager of Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, where many cast and crew stayed.

“Everyone local involved felt they were part of something special,” said Larkin, whose son Redman, 16, was “super pumped” to learn his appearance as a student getting off a school bus made the trailer.

The producers, who also scouted Sooke when seeking an Alaska coastline knockoff, loved Ucluelet’s rugged shoreline, Amphitrite Point Lighthouse and shipping vessels, said Vancouver Island North Film Commisson head Joan Miller.

The production company also redid Cassidy Inn Pub’s floor and added vintage saws, stuffed animals and other Alaskan accoutrements, and trucked in piles of ice shavings from a Nanaimo hockey rink. They further set the scene with parked logging trucks and used snow towers and wind machines.

“There’s so much money thrown into these massive tentpole movies,” said Miller. “We get them because they’re location driven. It’s usually because of the beaches and things they can’t get close to Vancouver. And because we don’t have the local crew base Victoria is so fortunate to have, they fill the hotels.”

Miller reunited with Rino Pace, the location manager she first worked with on The Thirteenth Warrior and then on films including Trapped, Elegy, The Big Year and Godzilla.

“He should get some kind of Vancouver Island film locations award,” laughed Miller, now off to Los Angeles for the Association of Film Commissioners International’s industry conference June 27 to 29 with Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission’s Kathleen Gilbert.

“You can’t market half an Island. It’s hard enough to make an imprint,” says Miller, explaining why the duo is collaborating. They also purchased the right to brand the delegate bags given to 2,500 industry types with Film Vancouver Island.

“We don’t want to get lost in the crowd, which is easy to do at these big shows,” adds Gilbert. “We want to stand out.”

Michael Reid/Victoria Times Colonist