Locals cast alongside A-list Hollywood leads in movie imagined by Okie pulp novelist 

There's a new deputy in Guthrie " the simple sort of Stetson-wearing, small-town sheriff who keeps easy company and enjoys a cup of coffee and a slice or two of pie. Lou Ford is easygoing and understated. Unfortunately, he's also underestimated by those who mistake his slowness for weakness.


Ford is strong. His sanity depends on it. There isn't much action in sleepy Central City, but there's always a scuffle to scuttle in his mind. The familiar nagging nests deep, urging him to act, needling him to kill.

He's alone with a creeping need he can't control, but soon the whole city will share Ford's "sickness."

Jim Thompson's fictional Texas city is almost five times the size of Guthrie, which serves as a stand-in for the film version of the Anadarko native's pulp novel "The Killer Inside Me." The book, published in 1952, was written from the perspective of Ford, a sadistic and sociopathic sheriff's deputy who struggles to contain and conceal his murderous tendencies.

Academy Award-nominated actor Casey Affleck ("Gone Baby Gone," "Ocean's Thirteen") stars as Ford in the film, which also features Kate Hudson ("Bride Wars," "My Best Friend's Girl") as his schoolteacher girlfriend Amy Stanton, and Jessica Alba ("The Love Guru," "The Eye"), as Joyce Lakeland, a prostitute central to the grisly story. The film is directed by Michael Winterbottom ("A Mighty Heart," "The Road to Guantanamo").

Several of Thompson's other books have been adapted for major Hollywood films, including "The Getaway," a 1972 hit directed by Sam Peckinpah, which starred Steve McQueen, and the Martin Scorsese-produced 1990 film "The Grifters," which garnered four Academy Award nominations and starred John Cusack and Anjelica Huston.

Filming began mid-May at several locations in and around Guthrie, and wraps at the end of the month. Interior scenes were filmed last week inside historic homes in the northeast part of the city, near the 1500 block of West Noble Road.

Streets have been closed and traffic diverted around the roving and tightly controlled Guthrie set. The movie's celebrity involvement has yielded high security, limited access and producers wary of cameras, news or media outlets capturing either scripted or candid moments on set.

Despite the media lockdown, paparazzi-style photos of the celebrities have been snapped and leaked, the most buzzed-about of which show a newly brunette Hudson walking on a break between shoots, sporting a tank top, ripped jeans and '50s-styled hair.

With its reported $10-$13 million budget, "The Killer Inside Me" is the biggest movie production to film in Oklahoma since "Twister," the 1996 film centered around rivaling storm chasers.

With a $92 million budget provided by a major Hollywood studio eager to show off then-state-of-the-art special effects, "Twister" was a much bigger storm than "Killer," which is independently financed through several sources.

"Killer" will benefit from the state's film incentive program and was pre-authorized to receive a rebate on production expenditures, said Jill Simpson, director of the Oklahoma Film & Music Office. When shooting has finished, Simpson said, producers will submit a detailed accounting to the film office, which verifies the expenses and ensures criteria for the rebate are met.

Gov. Brad Henry last week signed into law Senate Bill 318, which goes into effect July 1 and increases the rebate from 15 percent to 35 percent. In addition to a point-of-purchase sales-tax exemption, film production companies can qualify for an additional 2 percent rebate if $20,000 or more is spent on music, Simpson said.

The state's film incentive program comes with several stipulations, including one which mandates production companies hire Oklahomans.

The film office won't know exactly how many Okies have been tapped for their technical skills or acting talents until "Killer" producers submit the rebate paperwork after filming, but Simpson said she's seen "a lot of local faces" on the Guthrie set.

Norman casting director Chris Freihofer, who helped screen regional talent for "Killer," said six local actors were picked for principal roles and roughly 300 were tapped as extras.

Rosa Pasquarella, a 20-year-old senior drama student at the University of Oklahoma, was among those locally cast for "Killer." The San Antonio, native was cast initially as an extra, but found her role expanded on May 18, the first day of filming in Oklahoma.

"It was really exciting "¦ it was crazy. It was a long day, and it just kind of happened," she said in an interview last week. "I was originally just there as an extra, but Michael (Winterbottom) threw a few lines at me."

The few lines of dialogue given to Pasquarella upgraded her set status from extra to principal actress, making her eligible for the Screen Actors Guild, a key step for those seeking lucrative film employment in Hollywood.

Pasquarella, who graduates from OU in December, is eager and excited by any future opportunities that might stem from her small "Killer" role as a nurse, a character she guardedly describes as working in an "insane asylum."

Simpson said Oklahoma's variable landscape is the biggest incentive to out-of-state filmmakers. As a bonus, she said filmmakers don't have to travel far within the state to find drastic terrain changes, which cuts production costs.

The cost savings were a major factor in wooing an upcoming production away from other states, Simpson said. A film version of "You Can't Win: The Story of Jack Black," will start filming in Guthrie after "Killer" finishes later this summer, Simpson said. The film is based on an autobiography written by Jack Black, a turn-of-the-century hobo and nomadic petty criminal.

"You Can't Win" was slated to film in Oregon and Wyoming, but Simpson said producer Brett Cranford fell in love with Oklahoma after a recent scouting trip.

"Most of the locations are within a five-mile radius of Guthrie, rather than spread throughout the whole state of Wyoming," Simpson said. "It's just cost-effective. Logistically, it's so much easier."

Guthrie is quickly earning a reputation among filmmakers making period pieces, Simpson said. The city's attention to its historically accurate look means producers don't have to spend as much money on set designs.

"They (directors) can get long shots of city blocks that have been restored from the fixtures down to the doors," she said. "Everybody is interested in Guthrie. It's like a back lot." "Joe Wertz

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Joe Wertz

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