Novato got the star treatment Wednesday night at the Marin County premiere of the new movie "Radio Flyer."
More than 700 people, many of them in black tie, braved a rainy night and filled two theaters at the Rowland Plaza Cinemas in Novato for the glittering, Hollywood-style event staged by the Marin Humane Society as a benefit for its SHARE program, which provides pets for the elderly.
The movie, a childhood adventure-fantasy with a serious theme of alcoholism and child abuse, was shot in Novato in the late summer and early fall of 1990. It stars Lorraine Bracco, John Heard, Elijah Wood and Joseph Mazzello.
About 30 Novato residents who worked as extras in the film were ferried to the theater in white stretch limos.
Although they were excited about seeing themselves on the screen, most of them understood that the change of that was slim.
"You can very easily find yourself hitting the editing room floor," said Kathy Remak of Novato, who worked as an extra in the movie for several weeks along with her sons Jesse, 11, and Michael 16.
But Novato itself was all over "Radio Flyer." Shots from the hillsides east of Highway 101 took in sweeping views of the town.
The law enforcement officers in the film drive cars that say Novato Sheriff's Department and the local newspaper is the Novato Independent. The family featured in the movie lives in the military housing tract in Ignacio. The Novato Theatre downtown is also a prominent location. The airport scenes, however, were filmed in the Sierra foothills town of Sonora.
Donner, who also directed the "Lethal Weapon" movies, "The Omen" and "Superman," clearly has a soft spot in his heart for Novato, where his 90-year-old mother has lived for several years.
"While we were shooting, my mother cooked for me every night," he said with a smile before ducking to an interview with the TV show "Entertainment Tonight." "Shooting this movie was a day at the beach."
Donner's wife, Lauren Shuler-Donner, who produced the movie, said they searched from Oregon all teh way down the coast before settling on Novato as the perfect location for "Radio Flyer," which opens Friday both nationally and in Marin at the Festival Cinemas in Larkspur and Rowland Plaza.
"It was beautiful and golden," she said. "We got the golden on film."
Musician Jesse Colin Young of West Marin, whose '60s hit, "Get Together" was featured on the film's soundtrack, attended the screening with his wife, Connie, and their 6-month-old son Tristan.
It turned out that "Get Together" is heard only in snatches as it plays on a radio in one scene.
Singer and animal lover Grace Slick was also among the celebrity guests. She was most excited to meet Rocky, the 6-year-old German shepherd who stars in the movie.
After the screening, Novatan Rosemary Leoni was disappointed that her granddaughter didn't get to see herself in the movie.
But she liked the film and said she was proud of her hometown.
"It was super special," she said. "I never knew Novato looked so great."
©1992 Marin Independent Journal