Filming began Monday on the Memphis-based birth-of-rock-and-roll television series “Million Dollar Quartet.”
“Memphis has opened its arms, and it’s been a great start,” said series executive producer Leslie Greif, whose Los Angeles-based Thinkfactory Media is creating the eight-episode scripted drama in partnership with CMT (Country Music Television), the cable network where the program will debut in November. “We already shot the first scene with the young Elvis at Humes. We move and groove, in and out.”
Highly visible, thanks to its armada of equipment trucks, its small army of crew members and its fleet of vintage “picture cars” (as necessary as the costumes in conveying a sense of 1950s authenticity), the production in its first few days has hit Millington, the former Humes High School, the Cooper-young neighborhood (for some “gospel” scenes at Galloway United Methodist Church) and the South Main district.
“I guess I’ve been through 30 or 40 of these,” said Harry Zepatos, owner of the oft-filmed Arcade Restaurant, where shooting took place Wednesday. Founded in 1919, the Arcade has been showcased in numerous TV shows and commercials and in such notable films as “Mystery Train,” by Jim Jarmusch, and “21 Grams,” directed by Alejandro Iñárritu, winner of back-to-back Best Director Oscars for “Birdman” and “The Revenant.” “It’s a lot of work,” Zepatos said, “but it’s always fun.”
Many of the significant cast members are in town, and several have documented Memphis experiences on social media. Series lead Chad Michael Murray, who plays Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, tweeted a picture of his bearded self on “Day One of Production,” commenting, “Gotta get the hair right 4 the era ... then a shave ... .” Texan Drake Milligan, cast as the pre-fame Elvis, posted a picture from a day of “hanging out” at Graceland, with the hashtag “#wheninmemphis.” Christian Lees, who plays Jerry Lee Lewis, tweeted: “LOVED my first couple of days in Memphis. So much good music everywhere you go.”
Other cast members include Jennifer Holland, cast as Phillips’ wife, Becky; Margaret Anne Florence, cast as Phillips’ assistant, Marion Keisker; Billy Gardell, as future Elvis manager “Colonel” Tom Parker; Christian Lees’ twin brother, Jonah Lees, who will play Jerry Lee Lewis’ cousin Jimmy Swaggart; Keir O’donnell (of the “Fargo” TV series) as WHBQ disc jockey Dewey Phillips; and Kevin Fonteyne, cast as Johnny Cash, who offered Saturday — as Cash might have done — the most honest tweet yet: “All I can hear is Spice girls blaring from Beale St. here in Memphis. Wtf?!?”
“Million Dollar Quartet” is intended to be CMT’S entrée into the increasingly crowded field of quality scripted television, where the network’s competitors Parking is prohibited on the street near the Arcade Restaurant during filming of the “Million Dollar Quartet” television show, which began this week. The eight-episode scripted series about the birth of rock and roll will start airing on CMT in November.
include HBO, AMC, FX, Netflix, Sundance and other companies.
Set primarily in 1954, the eight episodes now being filmed are supposed to be the first season of what would be an ongoing series about the early years of rock and roll, with Sam Phillips as the focal point for a roster of supporting characters that also will include Ike Turner, B.B. King and various country music stars, in addition to the Mid-south “rockabillies.”
The first season is being directed by London-born Roland Joffe, a two-time Oscar nominee for the harrowing historical epics “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission”; Joffe previously worked with Greif on the recent History Channel miniseries “Texas Rising.”
Shooting is expected to be complete in early July, by which time the production is expected to have spent some $17 million in Memphis and Shelby County, in order to qualify for $4.3 million in state funds set aside for local filmmaking. This would dwarf the amounts spent in West Tennessee by even such major past movie projects as “The Firm” and “Walk the Line.”
Contact John Beifuss at email@example.com; 901-529-2394 America. Through April 30, CTI 3D Giant Theater, Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central Ave. Tickets: $9 adult (13-59), $8 seniors (60+), $7 children (3-12). Call 901-636-2362 for showtimes, tickets and reservations. Prehistoric Planet: Walking with Dinosaurs 3D (Not rated, 45 min.) Experience a year in the life of dinosaurs. Through April 30, CTI 3D Giant Theater, Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central Ave. Tickets: $9 adult (13-59), $8 seniors (60+), $7 children (3-12). Call 901-636-2362 for showtimes, tickets and reservations. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (R, 100 min.) The monthly screening of the ultimate audienceparticipation sci-fi rockand-roll cross-dressing cult classic. 11:30 p.m. Friday, Evergreen Theatre, 1705 Poplar Ave. Tickets: $10. Visit rockyhorrormemphis.com. Toy Story 2 (G, 92 min.) The museum’s revival (in 2D) of the hit Pixar series continues with the 1999 sequel. 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, CTI 3D Giant Theater, Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central Ave. Tickets: $9 adult (1359), $8 seniors (60+), $7 children (3-12). Call 901-636-2362 for showtimes, tickets and reservations. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (PG, 86 min.) Another “squeakuel.” Bartlett 10. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (PG-13, 151 min.) HHH A movie of grim integrity for all its desperate opportunism, this troubled, troubling superhero epic conjures a post-9/11 pre-apocalypse in which dreams, visions, memories, pop culture, science fiction and historical fact overlap. The effect is not so much the introduction of a new DC Universe as a nightmare of colliding multi-verses, bleeding their alternate, even contradictory narratives into each other like watercolors on paper. The irrationality may not be quite what director Zack Synder intended (and it’s surely not what Warner Bros. wanted), but it’s distinctive and cinematic. It favors emotion over story, and these emotions — these traumas of grief and anger — are expressed explosively, as in a comic book panel, via crackling coronas of electricity and shock waves of colorful energy. Henry Cavill returns from Snyder’s “Man of Steel” as Superman; Ben Affleck is the new Batman, an eyewitness to two traumatic inciting incidents: the murder of his parents and the Twin Tower-esque collapse of Metropolis’ Wayne Tower, during the super-battle in “Man of Steel.” The idea is that just as 9/11 had a transformative impact on the psyche of America, the battle of Metropolis— and the subsequent realization that the Earth is host to an all-powerful alien who could destroy his adopted planet with ease — has altered human consciousness, creating new standards of morality and levels of fear — “the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel,” in the words of Batman’s butler, Alfred (Jeremy Irons). Filled with references to angels and devils and even Jesus, the movie is not all coy about its pretensions or allegory; it’s as if Snyder wanted to replay the superherodeconstructing themes of his stand-alone DC adaptation, “Watchmen,” with A-list characters rather than their symbolic counterparts. Out of fanboy context, bits of foreshadowing to planned spinoffs play like hallucinations, creating a sense of uncontrollable chaos that makes this a movie of its time: It’s not a commentary on our demented era but a symptom of it. With Gal Gadot (wonderful) as Wonder Woman, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor and a returning Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Cineplanet 16 (in 3-D), Collierville Towne 16 (in 3-D), Cordova Cinema (in 3-D), Desoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Majestic, Olive Branch Cinema (in 3-D), Palace Cinema (in 3-D), Paradiso (in 3-D), Stage Cinema (in 3-D), Studio on the Square, Summer Quartet Drive-in. The Big Short (R, 130 min.) HH ½ Director Adam Mckay’s adaptation of Michael Lewis’ nonfiction best-seller about the economic collapse of 2007-2010. Bartlett 10. The Boy (PG-13, 105 min.) HH ½ A young American woman (Lauren Cohan) takes a job as a nanny in a stately English manor, only to discover that her charge is a porcelain doll, called Brahms, which her elderly employers (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle) treat