A crime thriller called “Allagash,” written by a former Mainer and starring Tom Berenger, is set for filming in western Maine in March.

The plot revolves around a retired military veteran living near the Allagash, played by Berenger, who finds a dead woman, and a lot of money, while hunting. A group of criminals, searching for the money, come looking for it, and him.

Although the movie is set in northern Maine, filming will take place in wooded areas near Bethel and in-town locations in Rumford and Mexico.

It’s the first feature film for writer and director John Barr, who grew up in Cumberland and spent summers hunting, fishing and exploring around the Allagash River.

Suza Horvat, the film’s producer, said the Bethel area was chosen over the Allagash region because of better roads, less extreme weather, and access to Wi-Fi and other needed amenities. Plus, Bethel is a lot easier to get to, at just 70 miles from Portland. The Allagash region is some 340 miles from southern Maine and is far from major highways.

Barr has worked in Los Angeles for more than 15 years as a cinematographer, the person in charge of camera work on a film, as well as a camera operator. Some of the films he’s worked on have included “Frost/Nixon,” “Once Upon A Time In Queens” and “Capote.” He also directed a short film called “His Lover” in 2017, based on an Andre Dubus story.

Barr spent summers hunting and fishing with his father, uncles and cousins around the Allagash and in northern Maine, said Horvat, who is the spokeswoman for the film.

When he decided to write a story for his first feature film as a director, he knew he wanted to set it and film it here, she said. Because of his familiarity with and love for northern Maine, he didn’t look at the possibility of locations closer to Los Angeles.

Actor Tom Berenger will star in an independent film titled “Allagash,” which is due to be shot in the Bethel area in March.

“The authenticity to the story’s location was of the most importance,” Horvat said.

The film will include signs, props and products that help remind the audience the story is set in Maine, Horvat said. One will be a copy of the Portland Press Herald, being read in a diner.

Scenes will be filmed on a private wooded lane near Bethel and possibly in Grafton Notch State Park, Horvat said. Specific locations, including for in-town scenes in Rumford and Mexico, are still being selected, she said, and some local people may be cast as extras.

The cast and crew for the low-budget independent film will be small, about 30 people total, Horvat said, and filming will likely last the whole month of March.

Berenger is best known for his roles in hit films “Platoon,” “The Big Chill” and “Major League” in the 1980s. Other members of the main cast include Paul Ben-Victor, who was in the TV drama “The Wire,” and Mark Rolston, whose credits include the organized crime film “The Departed.”

“Allagash” continues a trend over the last 15 years or so of independent films, as opposed to major Hollywood productions, shooting in Maine, said Karen Carberry Warhola, director of the Maine Film Office.

But the independent film schedule has been brisk, with three shot here in 2018, three in 2017, two in 2016 and five in 2015. Among those, the best known was probably “Five Nights in Maine,” which starred David Oyelowo, Dianne Wiest and Rosie Perez.

Hollywood pictures were more frequently filmed in Maine in the 1990s. “Message in a Bottle” (1998) with Paul Newman, Kevin Costner and Robin Wright was filmed around Phippsburg. At least one scene of the following films were also shot in Maine: “Forrest Gump” (1994) with Tom Hanks, “Jumanji” (1994) with Robin Williams, “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996) with Denzel Washington, “Snow Falling on Cedars” (1998) with Ethan Hawke, and “The Cider House Rules” (1998) with Tobey Maguire.

The HBO film of Maine author Richard Russo’s “Empire Falls” (2003) was filmed in Maine, mostly around Waterville and Skowhegan.

The Bethel area has hosted other indie films with well-known stars in the past, including “Myth of The Fingerprints” (1996) with Roy Scheider, Blythe Danner, Julianne Moore and Noah Wyle.

Warhola said that anytime a film is made in Maine, it’s a chance to put a spotlight on the state and show other filmmakers what can be done here.

“Filmmakers always talk about what a great experience they had when they came, and that word of mouth always helps,” Warhola said. “It’s great to see a movie like this coming here.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RayRouthier

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