‘Maverick’ unit blowing smoke

JUST IN, and hot off the Associated Press wires, comes this report from Washougal, Wash.:

Producers of the movie “Maverick,” starring Mel Gibson and James Garner, want to blow some smoke over the Columbia River. The artificially produced smoke would come from a sternwheeler, the setting for the movie’s final sequence, said Kari Messina, publicist for Icon Prods.

But belching smoke along the river, which marks the western border between Oregon and Washington, would violate air-quality rules in both states.

State and regional authorities are considering the request. Icon wants to film the scenes aboard the steamer Sept. 13-17.

TALK ABOUT THROWING down the gauntlet: The city of Phoenix recently queried in a press release: “Is anybody still filming in Hollywood? It doesn’t seem possible, considering the record-breaking film activity reported in Arizona’s largest city.”

While the brash boast is a bit over the top, and sure to get the California film people’s knickers in a twist, Phoenix’s numbers are not all that bad. The Phoenix Motion Picture Office showed $ 27.1 million in revenue last year — a 50 % increase from the previous year.

Activity in the Phoenix valley has included the Cybill Shepherd/Ken Olin-starrer “Telling Secrets” and Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger starring in the remake of “The Getaway”– the original was shot in 1972 in Texas.

SHOOTING IN BOSTON and outlying areas is skedded to get under way this month on the Jeff Bridges/Tommy Lee Jones-starrer “Blown Away” for release by MGM/UA. The pic marks the largest production commitment ever for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and follows a visit by Gov. William Weld to Tinseltown.

THE ISLAND STATE of Hawaii said “aloha” to $ 8.1 million in production spending during the first quarter of 1993, a figure down 31.1% from the $ 11.8 million spent during the same period last year.

Mufi Hannemann of the Hawaii department of business, economic development and tourism said that despite the downturn, the state has hosted such recent productions as director Rob Reiner’s “North” in Kauai and production of “Picture Bride” at the Diamondhead studio in Oahu.

Hawaii says the $ 8.1 million spent generated $ 1.3 million in state and local tax revenues.

THE MEMPHIS Convention & Visitors Bureau is using “The Firm” to drum up tourism for the city on the edge of the Mississippi.

The organization has compiled a list of locations used in filming the best-selling legal thriller, available by mail and through the city’s visitor information center.

There are some easy locations on the list, like the four-star Peabody Hotel, Mud Island and the Cotton Exchange Building, and the more obscure Front Street Deli.

Just for kicks, the tourism office included a listing for the Rendezvous restaurant, which was featured prominently in John Grisham’s best seller but ended up on the cutting room floor in Paramount’s blockbuster. For information, call (901) 543-5333.

THERE’S AN INTERESTING human-interest story from Anderson, S.C., where Cliff (Whitt) Whitten has been unspooling film for four decades. It makes you wonder how many of the old projectionists are still around.

Five feet tall and 76 years old, Whitten started in 1937 at the local Criterion Theatre, and he recalls the days when Roy Rogers made a promotional tour and kept Trigger in a storage area in the basement.

For the last 17 years, Whitten has been holed up at the Osteen Theatre, chomping Tampa Nugget cigars and threading films through two huge Victorian projectors.

Whitten says the job is not as challenging as it was when film was made of nitrate and could be set on fire from a spark of static electricity caused by wearing the wrong shoes to work that day.

So what’s the erstwhile projectionist’s perspective on his mega movie career? “It was a bit nerve-wracking back then. You had to stay on the ball. When they made safety film, I sure was proud, Hon,” he says.

SO WHAT PICTURE kicked off the LSD Movie Marathon at the Quake on Haight Street in San Francisco last month?

None other than the 1967 Peter Fonda/Dennis Hopper/Bruce Dern-starrer “The Trip,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The event, which featured various acid-themed films screening simultaneously on three screens, is expected to be rehashed next year.

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