PAWHUSKA (AP) — Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep and a steady stream of awards won’t be what draw many people in northeastern Oklahoma to theaters next month to see “August: Osage County.” It’ll be the storefronts, streets and markings of the place they call home that’ll draw theater-goers to watch the film, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Oklahoma native Tracy Letts.
The film, set for release on Christmas Day, was shot last year in parts of Osage County and the Bartlesville area. It tells the story of the Weston family, who reunite at their rural Oklahoma home. Meryl Street plays Violet Weston, the brutally honest matriarch, while Julia Roberts plays her eldest daughter. Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor and Abigail Breslin also star in the film, while George Clooney is a producer.
Many of the scenes take place in the Boulanger Home, a large white colonial-style home built in 1918 in rural Osage County. But the film also features scenes from Pawhuska and the nearby communities of Bartlesville, Barnsdall, Copan and Ochelata. The Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, the largest protected area of tall grass prairie in the world, and Osage Hills State Park are also shown in the movie. Even before its release, the film was named Best Ensemble at the Hollywood Film Awards. Julia Roberts won Best Supporting Actress.
“It’s going to be a big deal for a small community,” said Marlene Mosley, whose Prairie Dog restaurant sits on Pawhuska’s Kihekah Avenue, a road where scenes were filmed last year. Though her store won’t be featured because it’s too modern looking, Mosley watched as the crew filmed scenes and met several of the production staff as well as director John Wells, who stopped in Prairie Dog several times and chatted with Mosley.
“They were very, very well received by the community. I think they got a good flavor of the town,” Mosley said.
Following the premiere of the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, Roberts said filming “August: Osage County” was “the best acting experience of my life.” The cast lived near the locations in Oklahoma where shooting took place, and Roberts said the filming was exhausting at times.
“I’ve never worked so hard in my life — and I’ve given birth to three children,” she told reporters.
Earlier this month, special guests were invited to catch the Oklahoma premiere of the film at Tulsa’s Circle Cinema. Those in attendance included state legislators, film extras and Tracy Lett’s mother, Billie Letts, whose own novel “Where the Heart Is” was based in Oklahoma and later adapted into a movie, according to the Tulsa World.
“It’s real exciting for me, but see ... I don’t get star struck,” said Mike McCartney, the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce director who attended the premiere.
McCartney, who escorted several of the film’s crew and some cast members around town showing them sights and places to eat during shooting, said he enjoyed seeing the town’s bank, streets and some of the buildings on the big screen.
And what about people who say the movie may be a little too dark and the Westons a little too dysfunctional to properly portray Oklahomans?
“If strong language offends you, just stay at home,” McCartney said. “And it’s not about me, I mean, it could be some of it, but it’s not.”