Novato has landed a starring role in a major Hollywood film, and production crews have come to the city to work their movie magic.
"Radio Flyer," a children's fantasy film set in 1969, will be produced by "Wall Street" starr Michael Douglas. It will focus on Novato as the hometown of two young brothers who escape their troubled home life by creating a fantasy world where their red wagon becomes a flying machine.
Columbia Pictures selected Rafael Village, the military housing subdivision in Ignacio, as the location for the boys' home.
Eight-year-old "Bobby" and 10-year-old "Mike" will live with their mother and step-father in a house along Norman Drive, near Owens Drive.
Film crews already have built one house there, remodeled another, put in new lawns and added fences. They are in the process of building a paved alley through yards in back of the buildings and past other homes. An abandoned store will be converted into a police station.
Twelve builders and artists have worked on the project for a couplee of weeks. Probably 50 or more will take part before it's completed, said Sara Terrien of Larkspur, assistant location manager for the project.
Columbia is taking special care to minimize inconvenience to merchants, motorists and residents, Terrien said.
Much of the film's action will take place in Rafael Village and along Grant Avenue in Old Town. Other scenes will be shot south of Novato and in other parts of the United States.
Unlike many motion pictures where settings are completely disguised or renamed, Novato will clearly be identified as such. As early as page three in the script, a character said, "I'm the king of Novato."
Columbia hopes to begin the monthlong filming in Novato on Oct. 3.
The biggest spectacle will occur during a major scene in Old Town, Terrien said, adding that 100 vintage cars from the '50s and '60s are being sought. Their owners might have a shot at becoming "extras" in the film, she said.
Rumors that Debra Winger would start in the film were not true, Terrian said, emphasizing that the two boys will be the stars, not the adults.
The film's publicist, Rob Harris of Seattle, said two children had beene cast, but he didn't know their names. And he had no information on the adult roles.
Richard Donner, director of "Superman" and "Lethal Weapon," will direct this film also. Novato was selected for the location in large part because Donner has family in Bel Marin Keys, Terrien said.
The project already rocked Hollywood because Columbia paid a reported $1 million for the script alone. The author, a previously unknown 27-year-old, had insisted he be hired as director, but was soon replaced by Donner.
Forbes magazine, which reported Donner would receive $5 million for his work, said the scriptwriter, David Mickey Evans, would be credited as a producer and writer.
Columbia has not applied for a permit for the Novato work, though Terrien said she soon would do so.
Novato Police Sgt. Lyndy Bennett said the studio would send in lots of equipment, including large trucks to provided power generators, and big mobile homes for the stars' dressing rooms. Up to four officers per "shoot" would be needed to errect barricades and provide traffic direction, he said. Columbia will pay for all costs associated with its project.
Film representatives have met with merchants to obtain their cooperation for the downtown disruption.
Unlike the Farmer's Market, which split the merchants between those who wanted a downtown event and those who wanted to preserve parking, everyone appears to support the film.
"People are a little more willing to put up with disruptions from the movies," Bennett said.
Employeess of French Toast, an Old Town gift shop, are hoping the cameras will focus on the exterior and interior of their store. "We're all trying to look like 11-year-olds so we can be in it," said manager Cheri Sarriugarte.
The film most likely will have a family rating, Terrien said. Some controversy arose after it was reported the boys would be portrayed as attempting to escape the reality of their lives as abused victims of their alcoholic stepfather.
But Terrien said the abusive relationship is a very minor part of the plot, included only as a motivator for the boys to enter their fantasy world. No abusive scenes will be portrayed, she said.
©1990 Marin Independent Journal