Lights, camera, action — Cheap Charlie's hosts movie crew over weekend

David Tran said he and wife Janna were approached by the filmmakers about three months ago, and underwent several location visits before the filming day.

Cheap Charlie's
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A longtime favorite Rochester diner closed early Sunday for a good reason — to launch its movie career.

Cheap Charlie’s (11 5th St. NW, Rochester) hosted the crew of “The Ballad of Travis Hunter,” an upcoming film from St. Paul-based director/writer Cole Meyer .

The 20-person crew spent about four hours shooting a diner scene in the early afternoon, said Cheap Charlie’s co-owner David Tran.

While the crew set up lights, applied makeup, and rearranged the diner for the best shots, Tran stayed in the back of the restaurant and supplied the odd food offering — coffee and mashed potatoes, over the course of 10 to 15 takes.

Tran said he and wife Janna were approached by the filmmakers about three months ago, and underwent several location visits before the filming day.


The Ballad of Travis Hunter ,” predicted to release in 2022, follows a country singer as he returns home to care for his estranged daughter. It stars H. Thomas Altman and Eric Roberts.

Meyer s aid he chose the diner because it reminded him of small-town West Virginia.

"We had a lead on Cheap Charlie's from one of our crew members who used to live in the area," he said. "We had been looking for a diner, and when we found Charlie's it just had that small town appeal we were going for. The film is set in Nashville Tennessee, so Charlie's would be there. The pig on the roof is perfect and somewhat symbolic, too. The interior has kep its original design since opening back in the 1960s. The curved countertop and hometown aesthetic worked perfect(ly)."

The scenes filmed at Charlie's represent in a turning point.

Meyer said Altman (as Travis Hunter) and Roberts (as Larry Fineman, his manager and mentor) have a confrontation about controversial statements he'd made earlier in the movie, followed by a call about a tragic accident.

The rest of the movie is a mystery to Tran — he said the filmmakers had one more Rochester spot planned, as well as a couple scenes to shoot in Minneapolis and “up north.”

“They’re very tight-lipped about what they’re doing,” he said. “They’re very, very professional.”

Meyer said the crew also filmed in a "1 million dollar mansion made to look like Travis' Nashville home near the Mayowood Manor outside of Rochester."


Tran said he’s excited to see the final scene — especially since Cheap Charlies’ iconic pig and sign remained on full display during the shoot.

“They didn’t tell us to cover the name,” he said. “They shot the whole thing with the pig on top — but we’re supposed to be in West Virginia.”

Related Topics: MOVIES
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