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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media – comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Local media is still his beat and he’s bringing his interest, curiosity, contacts and unique style to Cincinnati Public Radio and 91.7 WVXU. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

Glenn Close, Amy Adams, Visit Middletown For 'Hillbilly Elegy' Meeting

Courtesy HarperCollins
Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment bought rights to J.D. Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy" in 2017.

Hillbilly Elegy stars Glenn Close and Amy Adams and others from the  Netflix movie visited Middletown Saturday and lunched at Ami Vitori's Gracie's restaurant downtown, according to the Journal-News.

Director Ron Howard also was seen in town scouting homes on Harrison Street for the film version of J.D. Vance's memoir of growing up among working-class "hillbillies" in the Butler County steel town. However, most of the film will be shot in Georgia, starting later this month.

Credit Paul Drinkwater / Courtesy NBC
Courtesy NBC
Glenn Close accepting a Golden Globe Award in January 2019.

Vitori said she had offered her restaurant at 1131 Central Ave. to the cast and crew for a meeting space and lunch during a previous visit, she told reporter Rick McCrabb. Howard has made several trips to Middletown since October.

As I reported in April, only a small part of Hillbilly Elegy will be filmed in Middletown, where Vance graduated from Middletown High School in 2003.

The majority of Hillbilly Elegy will be filmed in Georgia, which offers unlimited tax credits to production companies. Howard will shoot only about three days in Middletown later this summer, Vitori told the Journal-News.

Close, a seven-time Oscar nominee, will portray "Mamaw," the resilient family matriarch.  Adams, a six-time Oscar nominee, will play Bev, the author's addiction-riddled mother. Unknown actor Gabriel Basso (The Whole Truth) will star as "J.D. Wade," the fictionalized name for J.D. Vance.

Why not shoot the Middletown story in Middletown?

Netflix applied for an Ohio Film Tax Credit on March 7, according to the Ohio Development Services website.  By that time, all of Ohio's tax credits had been allocated for the fiscal year ending June 30.

Since then, the Ohio House eliminated the movie tax credit program from the $69 billion state budget. However, the state Senate has proposed expanding the tax credit program to include theatrical shows. Film commissions in major Ohio cities have been lobbying the legislature to preserve the tax credits before the state budget is finalized before the end of this month.

Credit Courtesy Heather Gibson
Ron Howard at Middletown's Triple Moon Coffee Company with Ranea Theiss and Heather Gibson in October 2017.

Georgia news outlets have reported that Hillbilly Elegy will be filmed in Atlanta, Macon and Clayton. 

Atlanta-based Tammy Smith Casting of Atlanta announced last month that "we will be filming in three different locations: Up north in Clayton GA (Rabun County) for a week, then Atlanta (the majority) and then 10 days in Macon."

Howard's Imagine Entertainment acquired the rights to Vance's book in 2017. Netflix is paying $45 million to finance the film, Variety says.

"The way the Ohio Film Tax Rebate program works, there is currently no funding available.  If the rebate is renewed in the (state) budget, that would become effective July 1," Lisa Grigsby, Film Dayton executive director, told me in April.

Since 2011, the Ohio Film Tax Rebate program lured Hollywood productions here starring George Clooney, Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Casey Affleck, Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Danny Glover, Bruce Willis, Emilio Estevez, Alec Balwin, Ryan Gosling, Don Cheadle, Colin Ferrell, Nicole Kidman, Nicholas Cage, Faye Dunaway, Mariah Carey, Sissy Spacek and John Travolta.

Howard will direct from a script by Vanessa Taylor, who was nominated for an Oscar last year with Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water.  She was also a writer-producer on HBO's Game of Thrones. Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, The Beatles: Eight Days A Week) will produce with Imagine Entertainment co-founder Brian Grazer, and former Imagine president Erica Huggins.  Vance and Julie Oh will be executive producers, according to the Internet Movie Database.

John Kiesewetter joined the WVXU news team as a TV/Media blogger on July 1 2015, after nearly 30 years covering local and national broadcasting for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He’ll be posting news about Greater Cincinnati TV, radio and movies; updating your favorite former local TV/radio personalities or stars who grew up here; and breaking news about national TV, radio and media trends. You’ll also learn about Cincinnati’s rich broadcasting history.