Margot Robbie glamour rolls into Port Levy
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Hills and Harbour
Hollywood's elite are making themselves at home in Banks Peninsula as remote Port Levy is turned into the American midwest for the star-studded film Z for Zachariah.
Filming at a Port Levy homestead began this week after months of location scouting and set building.
A 50-strong crew working on the production which tells the story of a farm girl in midwest America who believes she is the only survivor of a nuclear holocaust.
Stunning Hollywood star Margot Robbie, of Oscar-nominated film The Wolf of Wall Street, Chris Pine of Star Trek and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is both a Bafta and Oscar nominee for his leading role in 12 Years a Slave.
Should Ejiofor collect the gong, he will be the first black British actor to receive the accolade. He will take a break from the film to travel to the Oscars ceremony.
For proud peninsula dwellers, the star is more likely to be Port Levy, the heart of a farming area that also features a Maori settlement and holiday baches.
The crew, including director Craig Zoleb, were filming yesterday at the movie's fourth star, a stately old home which has been repainted and redecorated for the movie.
Robbie and Ejiofor were too busy to meet The Press but they are said to be enjoying the location and the helpful, protective locals. Pine is due in Port Levy next week.
Film producer and facilitator Murray Francis said the stars and crew were welcomed onto the Koukourarata (Port Levy) marae last Saturday with the Americans being awestruck by the reception, which included pounamu gifts.
Crew carpenters have also erected in Port Levy a small church complete with broken windows, an organ and a pulpit and built an old-time American service station selling Firestone and Goodrich tyres.
Product endorsement perhaps? Both buildings have an abandoned air in keeping with Robbie's character as the lone survivor of the nuclear disaster. They don't look out of place in laid-back Port Levy.
The movie church has been the venue for a real wedding, a same-sex marriage involving two female crew, despite Port Levy having a perfectly serviceable Anglican church which will today host its own wedding.
Jane Broughton, the owner of Chalfont Cafe and Bar, said the production was a boon for local eateries - Chalfont and Godley Cafe, both in Diamond Harbour, are the licensed premises nearest to the film set - and the new faces added spice to the village and bar conversation.
Both Robbie, now a brunette, and Ijiofor socialised at Chalmont and were relaxed and down-to-earth, she said.
"They are very nice people. They could be the girl and boy next door. My staff are just as glamorous."
Robbie made more local friends yesterday when she spoke to a local radio station after it offered $1000 to anyone who could get her to talk.
Francis claimed the prize and then handed the telephone to Robbie. The prize went to the Port Levy volunteer fire brigade and the marae.
He said the film could easily have gone to South Africa or South America and he initially had recommended Queenstown.
Zobel had wanted to go further afield and the Port Levy house had swung the deal.
"We found the right locations in the Queenstown area but we never found a really good house which is the fourth character in the film. The [Port Levy] house was just an idyllic two-storey house with that American period look set in an idyllic valley."
It was phenomenal to have the three stars in the film in little Port Levy, Francis said.
Celebrity-spotting website WhoSay has published a picture of Margot Robbie on set for the first day of filming.
- The Press