Tinsel towns

Break out the popcorn. By living in southeast Minnesota, you have a front row seat to many of Hollywood's biggest movies, including two movies in theaters now, "Hall Pass" and "Cedar Rapids," which both have Rochester connections.

In "Hall Pass," the Farrley brothers comedy starring Owen Wilson which opens today, Rochester resident Igor Vovkovinskiy plays what's listed as "Johnny's Hideaway Tall Stud." In the movie trailer , Vovkovinskiy punches actor Jason Sudeikis in the face. "Hall Pass" is playing at both Wehrenberg's Galaxy 14 Cine and CineMagic's Hollywood 12.

"Cedar Rapids," a comedy about an insurance convention starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Sigourney Weaver, opened at the Sundance Film Festival and is still in limited release, but commercials for it are all over TV.

Its Rochester connection? It was written by Phil Johnston, who worked as a reporter for KTTC-TV from 1994 to 1996. In past interviews, Johnston credited the station's chief photographer, Chuck Sibley, and the Viola Gopher Count for giving him early inspiration.

After Rochester, Johnston worked for KETV in Omaha, Neb., and KARE in Minneapolis before enrolling in Columbia University’s film program. In 2009 he was named by Variety magazine as one of its top 10 "Screenwriters to Watch."


But local connections to Hollywood go way back. Here are some top credits:

• A local Hollywood connection that's celebrated annually with its own festival is "Grumpy Old Men,"the 1993 movie starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Ann-Margaret which was filmed in Wabasha.

• Arguably Rochester's most noted actress is Lea Thompson who played Lorainne, Michael J. Fox's love interest and mother in the " Back to the Future" trilogy. Thompson was born in Rochester in 1961. Other starring roles include the TV series "Caroline in the City."

• Actress Winona Ryder, whose been in many movies including "Edward Scissorhands,"1990, "Girl, Interrupted"1999, "Reality Bites"1994, and "Beetle Juice,"1988, hails from her namesake city of Winona.

"Bang the Drum Slowly,"the 1973 movie starring Robert De Niro, makes references to Mayo Clinic, where a star baseball player dying of cancer receives treatment.

• Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, one of the famous baseball players in "Field of Dreams,"is buried at his wife's family plot in Calvary Cemetery in Rochester. He was played by Burt Lancaster in the 1989 movie.

Jessica McManus of Rochester was among the lead roles in the Coen Brothers 2009 movie "A Serious Man."She played Sarah Gopnik, one of several people who make life miserable for her father Larry Gopnik in the dark comedy about a Midwestern Jewish family in the late 1960s.

• Rochester's Eric Strobel went on from playing hockey for Mayo High School to being a member of the "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic hockey team that beat the Russians for the gold in 1980. His name is included in the credits of the 2004 movie "Miracle,"starring Kurt Russell.


• Model/actress Emily Sandberg , who was born and raised in Rochester, had bit roles in the 2006 comedy "Employee of the Month"as a young mom and "The Devil Wears Prada"in 2006 as a "clacker," or member of the editorial staff at the fictional fashion magazine in the movie.

Warren Skaaren , who is credited as a writer for "Batman,"in 1989, "Beetle Juice,"in 1988, "Beverly Hills Cop II"in 1987 and "Fire with Fire"in 1986, and as associate producer on "Top Gun"in 1986, was born in 1946 in Rochester.

Maureen Elisabeth Shay , who was born in Rochester in 1978, played one of Macaulay Culkin's family members who inadvertently leave him behind in "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York"in 1992.

Shirley O'Hara , who played George Jergens' secretary in the 1976 movie "Rocky"with Sylvester Stallone, was born in Rochester in 1924.

Sheree J. Wilson , who played Alex Cahill, a friend of the Rangers in "Walker Texas Ranger 3: Deadly Reunion,"starring Chuck Norris in 1994, was born in Rochester in 1958. She also played April Stevens in the long running TV series "Dallas."

• Parts of "Angus,"a 1995 teen drama, was filmed in Owatonna, including the shots in front of the school and at the football game which were shot at Owatonna High School. The marching band playing during the opening credits is the Owatonna High School Marching Band.

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