The movie business is booming in Grand Rapids — literally.
A little black powder, some sand to push the doors open, a bit of propane to cause a fire, earplugs for everyone in the vicinity and — whoomp! A police car explodes into flames inside the former Lear Corp. plant, 2150 Alpine Ave. NW, Sunday afternoon, where the action movie “Gun” was being filmed with star,producer and screenwriter Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.
A voice yells “Cut!” and two Walker firefighters extinguish the blaze. The sprinklers don’t go off, the set is secure and the scene is successfully captured on camera. Special effects supervisor Ken Gorrell was satisfied.
“We had one take, and that’s it,” he said, lighting a cigarette after completing the shot. “It looks like we don’t have to (add any effects in post-producton). Inside this building, everything filled in nicely.”
The big boom will be part of the climactic shootout sequence in the film, in which Jackson — best known as a multiplatinum-selling hip-hop star — Val Kilmer and John Larroquette (“Night Court”) play arms dealers. AnnaLynn McCord (“90210” and “Nip/Tuck”) stars as a manipulator of the big arms transaction, and James Remar (“Dexter”) portrays a cop trying to break up the smuggling ring.
“This is the final confrontation,” Jackson said, wearing a white shirt stained with fake blood, while seated inside a trailer next to producing partner Randall Emmett. “We’ve been shooting this scene for two days. There’s been a lot of action, and now we’re covering some of the details.”
Earlier on Sunday, Jackson was creating more noise, wielding a massive .50 caliber gun that weighs 85 lbs. Notably, it’s not the “Gun” of the title, which refers to his character’s two-hander Smith and Wesson pistol. The gunplay left an acrid smell lingering from the morning’s scenes, also filmed inside the chilly warehouse.
“It’s the big takedown today, the heat of the battle,” Remar said.
“We need the heat of the battle to keep us warm,” he joked.
“Gun” began shooting Dec. 27, and principal photography will wrap Thursday. Budgeted at less than $3 million, the movie is a product of Emmett and Jackson’s Cheetah Vision Films partnership. They plan to shoot three films in Michigan in 2010 to take advantage of the state tax incentives. Emmett said they will debut the film at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
Emmett and Jackson filmed “Caught in the Crossfire” locally last year with Grand Rapids-born director Brian Miller; it has not been released yet. Kilmer, who wrapped his “Gun” scenes on Thursday and left town, also starred in “The Chaos Experiment,” which shot locally in 2008 and is now available on DVD.
Jackson and Kilmer co-starred in the thriller “Streets of Blood,” released on DVD last year. Their relationship on that film’s set prompted Jackson to recruit the “Batman Forever” and “Top Gun” actor for “Gun.” Jackson also hand-picked director Jessy Terrero (“Soul Plane”) based on their previous music-video collaborations.
“He’s my biggest client in the video world,” Terrero said. “I knew him when no one knew who 50 Cent was.”
The soft-spoken Jackson talked in great detail about his involvement with the film from top to bottom: He wrote the script’s first draft, serves as its music director and even helped select cameras and cast members. He said he has been offered acting roles, but prefers to pursue “projects that have the level of artistic integrity I want to be associated with.”
Jackson is currently balancing his film work with his music career. He released his new album “Before I Self Destruct” in November, and will take part in concert tours between movies this year. The bonus DVD that comes with the album features a film Jackson directed himself.
“50 isn’t one of those actors who get producer credit but don’t really do anything,” said Emmett, who has produced dozens of films, including “Righteous Kill” and “88 Minutes.” “It’s exciting for me to work with someone as committed as he is.
“He brings his own mobile studio with him,” Emmett added. “He’ll have three-and-a-half minutes between takes, and you’ll see him in his trailer working on music. He makes everyone else feel lazy.”
Also working hard is McCord, who has flown back and forth between Los Angeles, where she’s still shooting “90210,” and Grand Rapids to film her scenes.
“This is the type of role I want — I love action films,” she said. “My agent sweet-talked the ‘90210’ producers so I could shoot both.
“I wanted to work with Curtis,” she added. “We have wonderful chemistry, and we’re having lots of fun together.”
The actress has had some down time in G.R., though; she drove go-carts at Craig’s Cruisers on a recent day off.
“I love it here,” she said. “Los Angeles is not based in reality. It’s nice to be somewhere that’s chill, and you’re not surrounded by a bunch of pretentious L.A. people.”
Also On Hot 96.3: