OAKLAND There's a man going around town impersonating an Oakland Tribune reporter, and no one is asking to see his press credentials.
He has no need for identification because his face is so well known: It's Clint Eastwood, playing a Tribune investigative reporter in his new film, "True Crime."
Filming began Monday and Tuesday at San Quentin State Prison and moved Wednesday to Oakland. It will continue for the next eight to 10 weeks, mostly in Oakland, Alameda and surrounding areas.
Eastwood was filmed Wednesday at Cafe Cheneville, renamed the Bread Co. Restaurant for the film. He sat at a table at a window booth for hours, easily visible to anyone along 9th Street.
Gaggles of production assistants shooed away those who lingered too long, and police steered pedestrians to the other side of the street. A few extras hung around to play passersby.
"I'm just waiting to walk back and forth in front of the window," said Carolyn McPerson, the Cafe Cheneville hostess, dressed a suit and holding an oversized briefcase.
The film, a Zanuck Co./Malpaso Productions project, is based on the novel of the same name by Andrew Klavan. Eastwood also directs the film and is a co-producer, unit publicist Marco Barla said.
Other actors include James Woods ("Ghosts of Mississippi"), Diane Venora ("Heat"), Denis Leary ("The Ref"), and Isaiah Washington ("Love Jones"). The screenplay is by Stephen Schiff.
"It's the story of an investigative reporter for the Oakland Tribune who has 24 hours to save the life of a condemned man on death row," Barla said. "His instincts tell him the man is innocent."
Klavan's novel is set in St. Louis, but Eastwood, an Oakland Tech graduate and former Tribune paperboy, changed the setting to his old hometown.
The synopsis on the novel's back cover reads: "In the heat of the city, a man is out of time: speeding in a beat-up Ford Tempo, blasting easy-listening music. Reporter Steve Everett drinks too much, makes love to his boss's wife, and has just stumbled upon a shocking truth: A convicted killer is about to be executed for a crime he didn't commit."
Not exactly the life of a typical Trib reporter, except maybe the beat-up Ford. Still, the set will be authentic. Set designers have been tramping around the Tribune office for the past month, snapping pictures, gathering photos and memorabilia, and collecting recycling bins full of discarded items for the set.
A replica of the cluttered newsroom has been built. Exterior shots won't be taken at the Trib's current Jack London Square location but at the more picturesque but seismically unsafe Tribune Tower in downtown Oakland.
Film crews will be in East Oakland filming a slow-speed car chase today and will be at other locations in the next few weeks, but Barla said there won't be anything dramatic to see. "We're not blowing up any buildings, and there's no car crashes," Barla said. "It's a character-driven, suspenseful story, not an action film."
A release date won't be available for a couple more months, Barla said. It may be before Christmas, or early next year.
©1998 Oakland Tribune