Hollywood is 2,457 miles from Amelia Island. However, local pursuits have brought it much closer.
The latest brush with Tinseltown came a couple of months ago, when actress Demi Moore slipped into town to observe the filming of a small-scale movie starring her daughter, Rumer Willis. Of course, Willis’ father is actor Bruce Willis.
Moore did not make her presence widely known. She came out from her Ritz-Carlton Hotel room mostly at night, when the filming was done for the independent, small-budget movie, “The Diary of Preston Plummer.” (Filmed on Amelia Island, see “The Diary of Preston Plummer’s FACEBOOK page.)
To support the cast, Moore showed up at 4 a.m. one night at Huddle House on South Eighth Street in Fernandina Beach. She picked up a to-go order for $200 and went on her way — like a normal person. The waitress at Huddle House recognized the undisguised Moore, yet stayed composed until the morning shift showed up for work. She was so jumpy and skittish that another female employee thought she had been robbed. Famous people will have that effect on you.
Other than such thrills of seeing celebrities in our town, the movie industry does not contribute noticeably to our economy here. It provides local restaurants a chance to flash pictures of the celebrities eating there. Rental fees are generated from the uses of buildings, and the city charges for permits to use public spaces. (The Amelia Island Film Festival has also become a prominent event in its own right.)
Watch a YouTube video montage of films shot on Amelia Island, Florida (by CCOM, Stan Cottle)…
The biggest production in recent years was “Sunshine State,” which was filmed mostly on the island — and received some notoriety. In the late 1980s, the “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” movie was produced at a charming house in Old Town. And a scene from a Faith Hill music video was shot at the Palace Saloon in downtown Fernandina Beach.
In other recent brushes with fame, Andie MacDowell snacked at Fantastic Fudge one summer night. Basketball legend Michael Jordan played golf here (he’s apparently pretty good on the links), and the mega-yacht “Casino Royale” from the James Bond movies docked here for several days.
John Travolta has frequently flown into town in his private plane. Timothy Hutton and several members of the cast from “The Sopranos” were at O’Kanes Irish Pub on Centre Street one night (they had starred in “Sunshine State”), as was Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones another night. In his late-1980s glory days, Michael Jackson attended church in downtown Fernandina Beach.
The list goes on. Jerry Seinfeld checked out the fancy cars at the Amelia Island Concours D’ Elegance. Fernandina’s Steamboat House was one of the settings in “The Manchurian Candidate” starring Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep and Jon Voight.
Paul McCartney hid out at the Amelia Island Ritz-Carlton Hotel before his Jacksonville Super Bowl gig, Tom Cruise was spotted in several local restaurants the same week, and more than one local eatery has a plaque or picture signed by Donald Trump from a visit here.
And let’s not forget that Bill Clinton stayed here when he was president, and played a round of golf at The Golf Club of Amelia. Of course, security was tight. Secret Service agents had cordoned off the entire perimeter of the course in a seal-tight grip — when plumes of smoke were noticed just off the 14th tee box.
Agents ducked inside a thicket to see a woman burning brush in her yard. This is legal in the county. A few minutes later, Clinton popped through the enclosure of agents and introduced himself to the woman, the late Carol Beggs. He reminisced how his family burned in their yard while growing up in Arkansas.
Now that was not a brush with Hollywood, but with Washington, D.C.
Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor who lives on Amelia Island. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or send eMail to [email protected])