As the three-year anniversary of the Marathon bombings approaches, filming for “Patriots Day,” the Mark Wahlberg-produced dramatization of the attack, was slated to begin in the Boston area this week.
Film crews were working in Greater Boston for the first time on Tuesday, its publicist Alex Worman confirmed for Metro — crews and actor John Goodman were spotted on set in Quincy’s Merrymount neighborhood.
Site preparations were also underway in Dorchester this week, although Worman said filming wasn’t underway yet in the Boston neighborhood.
Fliers distributed to neighbors said crews would be filming around Belfort Street on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to midnight, but Worman declined to offer many specifics or share details about future shoots in the city.
He did say, though, that the inevitable crowds of rubberneckers that these sets attract might not have much to look at this week.
“We will be doing interior work so no filming will be visible from outside. All people will see are our work trucks,” Worman wrote in an email to Metro, adding that, “We can not provide any more info on actors working, scenes, etc.”
Film crews are notoriously guarded about specifics of shoots, which have been common in the city in warmer months thanks in no small part to the state’s generous film tax credit.
But for this production — a high-profile affair with sensitive subject matter — decisions about where to shoot have been aired in public.
For one, scenes depicting clashes in Watertown will not actually be filmed in that town, after neighbors objected to recreating the real-life violence in their neighborhood.
Nor will filming happen at UMass Dartmouth, the college where Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a student. UMass leadership earlier this month turned down a request to shoot there, citing the disruptions it would cause for students.
The film crew will, however, shoot some “entirely peaceful scenes” at MIT, the school announced last week.
Part of the movie depicts the life of the late Sean Collier, an MIT police officer shot dead April 18, 2013, three days after the bombing.
But a recreation of Collier’s killing will not be shot on-campus, according to a letter administrators sent out to community members at the school.
“We feel it appropriate that Sean's depiction take place not at a facsimile of MIT, but rather here, where he was proud to serve, and where he is loved,” the letter from Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz reads. “We and [Director Peter Berg] agree that the scene depicting Sean's murder will not be filmed at MIT.”
Several scenes from the movie will instead be shot at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station, where filmmakers planned to build a replica streetscape on a runway, officials in the town told The Boston Globe.
The launch of filming follows months of discussions and debate, with some questioning whether the story should be brought to the box office at a time when the bombings are still so fresh in victims’ memories, or whether it should be made at all.
Critics of Wahlberg’s ambitions for the film included Liz Norden, whose sons JP and Paul both lost legs in the blasts near the Marathon finish line.
She said it was “way too soon” to make the movie in an interview last year with the Associated Press, adding that “people who live it day in and day out, their lives are just coming back somewhat.”
Wahlberg said in a recent Globe interview he feels “huge pressure to get this right.”
And CBS Films, too, has pledged to cater to sensitivities in Boston and beyond.
“As with each step taken on ‘Patriots Day’ our goals for authenticity are second only to the desire to respect the wishes of the parties depicted. We appreciate UMass Dartmouth taking the time to consider our request and we look forward to making a film that will make them and the entire city of Boston proud,” CBS Films said in a statement to the Boston Globe following the announcement from UMass.
“Patriots Day” stars Wahlberg as a cop named Tommy Saunders — a fictional composite character based on several police officers — and John Goodman as former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis.
It’s one of two upcoming movies based on the attacks. The other, “Stronger,” stars Jake Gyllenhaal.