Crowding the beaches with camera equipment and A-list actors, film maker Oliver Stone brought the set of his new film “Savages” to Laguna Beach this week.
The crime drama is based on the bestselling book by Don Winslow that focuses on the relationship between best friends and Laguna Beach pot growers Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), who live a cozy life with their girlfriend Ophelia until their turf is challenged by the Mexican Baja Cartel.
Add Stone to a long list of Hollywood filmmakers shouting “action” along Laguna’s shoreline, dating back to the 1930s.
Universal Pictures’ production company Paqu Films LLC was permitted for two days of production, according to Susan Cannan, the city’s community services director, who issues film permits.
The majority of the filming on Monday took place on the sand at Main Beach, where camera operators filmed scenes for the back-story of the main characters, who spent their summers playing beach volleyball and chilling with girls who crooned over the players. Ophelia (Blake Lively) is the love interest.
Another crew on Monday was filming scenes in the surfline or 25 to 30 feet from shore at Crescent Bay, said lifeguard spokesman Kai Bond, who reported there were no injuries.
The story line of “Savages” is reminiscent of the city’s real history in the ‘60s hosting LSD and hash-smuggling hippies known as the Brotherhood of Eternal Love and their entanglement with one of the counter-culture’s best-known activists, Timothy Leary, who promoted illicit drug use. The Brotherhood’s Mystic Arts World, at 670 S. Coast Highway, became the operation center for Orange Sunshine, a popular “brand” of LSD.
Their sometimes hilarious smuggling adventures were documented by OC Weekly writer and Laguna Beach resident Nick Shou in his 2010 book, “Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World.” The book credits them with creating the strain of marijuana known as Maui Wowie and being the first to bring Afghan hash to the U.S.
Paqu has had to employ five policemen and five lifeguards at full overtime rates, which in addition to the city permits for the large scale production puts spending in excess of $30,000 for two days of filming, according to Cannan.
“We came here to shoot something that screams Orange County; Laguna Beach,” said production assistant Matty Gonan.
Except that some of the locations where “Savages” film was shot are actually elsewhere.
Last week, on Sept. 6 and 7, the Universal Pictures crew set up shop along the bluff top trail on the Dana Point headlands, which overlooks the harbor, as well as in the harbor area near the Ocean Institute, said Christy Teague, Dana Point’s economic development manager. They were charged a $45 permit fee and will pick up an estimated $2,500 tab for a security detail of sheriff’s deputies, Teague said.
And Malibu apparently had to stand in for Laguna during production in July when Laguna Beach city officials blocked Stone’s film crew from shooting at an unusual home in Victoria Beach because of summer congestion, according to homeowner Colleen Holthouse, who also lives part time in Houston.
“I’ll never get another phone call like that again,” said Holthouse, who was told by location scouts that Stone was eager to use her home as a film location for three weeks. “It’s a very unique house with a very unique view,” she said.
But city officials nixed the plan before financial terms were negotiated, said Holthouse, who was hoping her daughter could be an extra in the production.
Besides the two different beach locations in Laguna, the film production crew stashed gear all over town, dislocating buses from the ACT V lot in Laguna Canyon and patrons’ cars from Hotel Laguna’s parking lot. The latter served as an outdoor cafeteria for crew members. Catering trucks with racks of large chafing dishes and a huge barbeque looked set to feed a small army, according to resident Richard Halle, who took in the scene Tuesday morning.