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Movie set generates excitement, curiosity

This unusual-looking structure was constructed by the movie folks on the American Aggregates property and used to film scenes in “Real Steel.” Photo submitted. (click for larger version)
August 11, 2010 - A touch of Hollywood visited Oxford Township last week as the $80 million movie "Real Steel," starring Hugh Jackman, filmed some scenes in one of the local gravel pits.

But don't expect to get a sneak peak of the science fiction/action-adventure flick in this local newspaper because they weren't letting anybody on the set who wasn't connected with the film.

"It's a closed set," said Amy Cohn, the movie's publicist. "They're trying to keep everything under wraps and keep it a surprise."

In the movie, being filmed at locations all over Michigan, Jackman plays an ex-fighter who's forced to pursue a new career path when human boxing is outlawed for being too violent.

Robots are the new gladiators in the ring, so Jackman tries to reinvent himself as the promoter and trainer of a discarded robot that always seems to win. Along the way, Jackman discovers he has a young son and the two bond over robot battles.

It appears all of the filming in Oxford was done at night on the American Aggregates property located west of M-24 between Dunlap and Hummer Lake roads.

Driving along Dunlap Rd., motorists couldn't help but notice the extremely bright lights in what's normally a pitch black area at night.

Although trees, dense vegetation and berms shield most of the property from view, parts of the set were somewhat visible from the road including the massive structure shown in the above photo.

Tim VanWagner, a 2006 Oxford High School graduate, was parked out there on Dunlap Rd. almost every night last week, soaking up the sights and sounds of Hollywood in action.

"It's cool because I grew up down the street and (I've) been in there tons of times because my dad's a construction guy," he said. "It's going to be cool to see how they used everything to make the movie."

VanWagner claimed he actually saw Jackman performing a stunt involving the large structure in the photo.

"It was supposedly him because I heard the director talking," he said. "He was on a rope. They kind of slid him down the side."

VanWagner also witnessed some scenes involving a simulated thunderstorm complete with lightning. "I think it's going to be a sweet movie," he said.

Metamora resident Maureen Rondy, who co-owns downtown's Oxford Wine and Beverage Co. with her husband Dean, is waiting to see if Jackman returns a bottle of Australian Shiraz that she requested he autograph.

She left the bottle with a security guard posted at the gravel property's main gate on Metamora Rd.

Rondy found out the movie folks were in town when a couple of guys from California who had finished working on the set visited her 11 S. Washington St. shop.

On Aug. 2, the first night of filming, Rondy and her friends, Oxford residents Cindy DuVal and Sue Turowski, took a field trip to the set to see if they could get in and maybe watch the magic.

"It was probably 6:30-6:45 p.m. when we got there. The gate was open and I saw cars going back there," she said. "We got in one car and we pulled all the way up to the gate. The guy asked us if we were crew, lighting or something else. At that point, we couldn't lie . . . We told the guard we're not a bunch of crazy old broads. We just want to watch and see Hugh."

Although they were denied entry, the guard did allow them to hang around by the gate. He told them that Jackman was "on his way" and if they wanted to stand there and wait, maybe they'd catch a glimpse of him.

The guard wasn't kidding.

About a half-hour later, a black Cadillac Escalade pulled up with Jackman riding on the passenger side.

"He didn't stop or slow down. He cruised right through (the gate)," Rondy said.

The guard asked for the wine shop's business card and said "maybe (Jackman will) stop by in the next few days."

"We gave him a card and let him keep the wine, so the story is will Hugh return our bottle of wine? I don't know," Rondy said. "He hasn't been by yet."

The guard told Rondy that Jackman purchased a home in Troy and is going to be here for the next two years filming another movie.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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