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Hollywood stars, extras fill Newton City Hall to film 'The Makeover' with Julia Stiles

Posted by Leslie Anderson  October 9, 2012 03:05 PM

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The War Memorial has turned into campaign central for the fictional Elliot Doolittle, a blue-collar Southie guy running for Congress in the movie “The Makeover,” being shot today today at Newton City Hall.

A giant “Meet the Candidate” poster hung on the roman pillars at the front of the memorial on Tuesday morning, and inside, the normally quiet hall had been transformed, filled with camera equipment, lights, film crew, and Hollywood stars.

The movie follows Julia Stiles as Hannah Higgins, a failed congressional candidate trying to turn Doolittle, played by David Walton, into the perfect candidate. Camryn Manheim, who was in “The Practice,” plays Colleen Pickering, a campaign manager focused on education issues who doesn’t believe that Doolittle can win. Pickering and Higgins, said Manheim, make a bet over whether Doolittle will be elected, and Pickering bets against him.

“It’s basically Pygmalion set in the world of politics,” said Stiles in between takes. Pygmalion is a play by George Bernard Shaw about the transformation of Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle into someone who can pass for a duchess.

The movie, a Hallmark Hall of Fame production that will air next year on ABC, is almost done shooting, according to crew members – Tuesday was day 22 of a 23-day schedule.

It’s been fun shooting in Boston, said the stars. “Great group of people,” said Stiles, who has filmed in the city before.

“We spent weeks looking all over Boston,” said First Assistant Director Dick Feury, as he stood in the hall watching crew members adjust lighting in preparation for filming. “Boston is like another character in this.”

The film has shot all over the city, he said – Boston Common, the Public Gardens, the State House and near the Children’s Museum.

“It’s the perfect city because everyone is politically aware here. One of the subtle story lines is the importance of education,” he said – and Boston is known for its educational institutions.

A little after 11 a.m., the crew started filming takes of the scene – which one crew member said have been moving pretty smoothly, taking about an hour and a half each.

The scene occurs about halfway through the movie – about 5 weeks before the election – and Doolittle’s speech starts out strong, as he pledges to make education a priority. But things start to unravel after an audience member asks him a question, and he compares cutting education to a scene from the The Three Stooges.

“Do you really want Moe gouging our kids in the eyes?” he asks.

The audience applauds, but it can’t be too proud a moment for his campaign.

Walton’s parents, Jay and Candy, who live in Brookline, were on set watching their son. When Jay walked in the back door, he said, the crew mistook him for an extra and he nearly landed a spot in his son’s movie.

The only rough part of filming, said Stiles, whipping out her phone to display a picture of her bandaged forehead, was when she smacked herself in the face with a car door. She looked great on Tuesday – the damage from the door had healed.

The movie was also filming scenes at the Inspectional Services counter and inside the main rotunda on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the crew will be on hand to clean up and take down sets and equipment.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com.

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