About The Production
Darabont created the atmosphere of a high school class reunion by bringing together the collective talents of thirteen fellow graduates and friends from Hollywood High School in the making of the film. In addition to writer Michael Sloane (class of '76). production designer Gregory Melton ('77) and costumer Karyn Wagner ('78), Darabont (class of '77), recruited veteran hairstylists NINA
PASKOWITZ ('77) and Emmy winner
KATHERINE REES ('77), L.A. location managers
JOHN GRANT ('78) and STEVE RINGEL ('78),
Melton's art director, TOM WALSH ('74), actress
APRIL ORTIZ ('76), transportation co-captain
CRAIG LIETZKE ('78), set dressers SHANNON
WADE ('80) and CHARLIE NICHOLSON ('77) and
Associate Producer and President of Production at
Darkwoods Productions (his film banner), ANNA
"The Majestic" was filmed entirely in the state of California, utilizing several locales in-and-around Los Angeles
(Grauman's Chinese Theater, the Formosa Cafe) before traveling to the northern California communities of Ferndale, Mendocino and Ft. Bragg to create the fictional village of Lawson. Interiors were designed at the former Goldwyn Studios lot (now known as
"The Lot") in West Hollywood.
Darabont filmed a good portion of his enchanting
homage to the cinema in a charming northern
California town that actually has no movie theater — Ferndale, the Victorian Village nestled in the
Redwood Forest area on the state's Lost Coast some
20 miles south of Eureka.
The vintage enclave (known for its fertile dairyland and for being the first community to process sweet cream butter around 1900) was founded in 1852, incorporated in 1893 and is now populated by 1400+ residents. The homey community is distinguished as being the only town recognized by California's register of historical landmarks.
Darabont singled out Ferndale after visiting the tiny tourist spot by chance a decade ago. "I remember driving up the coast to visit my brother in Seattle. I pulled off the freeway to check this little town out. I fell in love with its look, and recall thinking that this
would make a wonderful place in which to shoot a movie, if you had the material to suit it. When I read Michael's script, I immediately thought of this town. Ferndale has maintained its old-fashioned character, and has been kept pristine over the years, kept very much in its period character.
"Other than the weather, which defines capricious, it was the perfect place to shoot," says the director. "This is one of those rare towns where you look up and down Main Street and there's no McDonald's on every corner. As a main character, this town was very, very vital."
Commencing talks with the town early on helped
veteran location manager Rory Enke pave the way for
the film company to begin production in the Spring.
Ferndale had hosted Hollywood twice before — the
1978 Stephen King miniseries, "Salem's Lot," and the
1995 medical thriller, "Outbreak."
Construction began under the supervision of production designer Gregory Melton. Darabont and Melton realized they would have to build an entire building to simulate the aging movie palace of the film's title. The company took over Ferndale's public parking lot and erected an entire theater featuring a unique, dazzling marquee.
"This parking lot seemed like the perfect place to just plop our theater," Darabont notes. "Greg Melton, a brilliant production designer, and his construction and decorating crews, designed this marvelous, marvelous piece. It was quite breathtaking. It put me in a good mood every time we lit it up. I wished we could have taken it back to L.A. and use that marquee to open up a (real) movie theater. It's just fantastic!"
"It was interesting, because I designed the theater
before I knew we would shoot in Ferndale," Melton recalls
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