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‘Gone Girl’ Opening A Special Occasion For Cape Girardeau

Just eleven months ago, Ryan Steck spent two days in Thebes, Ill., acting like he was searching for a missing person.

He had no idea Gone Girl would change his life.

While on the set of the movie as an extra, Steck met his now-girlfriend Pamela. The couple has an unusual story to tell people about how they met.

“That’s what is so special about it. How many people from Cape Girardeau or from southeast Missouri can say that they met the person that they are with on the set of a movie?” Steck said. “People might say that all the time in Los Angeles or California somewhere, but here in this area, that’s hard to come by.” 

A year ago, Cape Girardeau played the part of the fictional town of North Carthage in David Fincher’sGone Girl. Big name stars like Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris came to town and added some five-star luster to this sleepy river town on the Mississippi River. The excitement around the movie’s release has grown throughout the year and now it has come to the point where people cannot wait any longer.

“We all couldn’t believe we had to wait a whole year for the movie to come out so now it’s kind of surreal to think that it’s next week,” said Sandi Williams, who worked on the movie. 

Ryan Steck said the special screening of the movie in Cape Girardeau on October 2nd is going to be an important moment for him. Steck said being part of a movie was a great experience, but meeting his girlfriend there was even better.

For Jim Dufek, professor of Mass Media at Southeast Missouri State University, the community’s involvement and enthusiasm toward the filming was no surprise.

When people started to hear that David Fincher, Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris and other big Hollywood 
names were coming to town, his phone started to ring off the hook, because everyone wanted to be part of it. 

“People were offering ‘How can I help?’ And I know it was genuine, but it was also the opportunity for people to meet some people they consider to be entertaining and they were, I’m sure, starstruck to have these people in the community. And rightly so, you just don’t get to have that opportunity too often,” Dufek said.

Sandi Williams met the crew when the first shoot took place in her neighborhood. She actually had them over to her house for lunch and offered them her help. She worked in craft services for 20th Century Fox.
Her job was to make sure everyone had everything they needed and provided snacks to the crew in between meals.

She got to meet everyone from the cast and worked closely with David Fincher. Williams said they were all nice and down-to-earth.

“The experience with all of them was wonderful, they were all very nice, very friendly,” Williams said. “I
think they liked being in Cape too so that made it even better.” 

She read Gillian Flynn’s book while they were filming the movie, and Fincher took her copy to get it signed by the author.

Heather Probst, from Oak Ridge, was a fan of the book before the movie got here. She was an extra on the film and was part of the media team for six days. She said her favorite memory was the night she worked on the candlelight vigil scene and got the chance to discuss the book and the movie with author Gillian Flynn.

In addition to being in the film, she also spent a lot of time following the crew around.

“The first night I went to watch was the very first night that they did filming downtown and after I just kind of I couldn’t quit, it was almost like I was addicted to just see where they were, what they were doing, and trying to get glimpses of famous Hollywood actors,” Probst said.

She got to meet Ben Affleck and took her picture with him.

“It was amazing. It was incredible,” Probst said. “Being in the middle of the country, in a little town, you don’t really get to ever have the opportunity to just see famous people walking down the street so it was really cool to be around all of that.”

For her, it was like Hollywood was here for a short time.

Jim Dufek’s involvement with the Gone Girl filming started when he was asked to help coordinate the casting of extras back in Summer 2013. At first, he did not know which movie was coming to town and only knew it was produced by 20th Century Fox. Then, he helped with scouting some of the filming locations and provided props from the Mass Media department to help with the filming of scenes involving news media teams.

“When they came up here and saw all our lights and cameras they were very appreciative of what we could offer to them,” Dufek said.

Dufek was involved in the film as an extra and played the role of North Carthage’s mayor in one scene. He said it was very interesting for him to see people’s reaction to the long process of making a film.

“I enjoyed listening to people talk about how they saw the process and how they didn’t realize how much equipment it took to make one little scene look so good,” Dufek said.

He added that it was a different experience for everyone. Some thought it was too boring while others loved it.

“Some could just not get enough of it,” Dufek said. “Time was relative, they didn’t care how much time passed.”

Ryan Steck said the crew was very friendly with the extras. He enjoyed the experience.

“I didn’t find it boring because it was an experience that we don’t get here very often,” Steck said. “We’re from Cape Girardeau and we are standing 10 feet from Ben Affleck so how boring can that be?”

Heather Probst is excited to see the finished product. She will see the movie twice in a row, on the nights of October 2nd and 3rd and said that the extras are all going to try to see the movie together during the following weekend.

“I will see it at least three times, maybe more,” Probst said.

The Gone Girl planning committee is commemorating the opening of the movie in Cape Girardeau. Stacy Dohogne Lane, director of public relations at the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it is also a way to leverage the film from a tourism perspective. 

She believes the impact of the film on tourism will be seen after the release, when people will come to town to see the film locations. That is why the CVB put together a Gone Girl driving tour to showcase the various places where the filming happened. 

“Once the movie comes out we’ll see exactly which spot made it into the final cut, then we’ll put together a more thorough, intensive driving tour that specifically references those spots,” Dohogne Lane said.

When the film was shot here last year, there was an immediate economical impact. The production filled hotels, workers bought food and props from local stores and boosted the economy during that period. From a tourism perspective, Dohogne Lane said it will be necessary to have the tools to answer people’s demand regarding information on where the fictional town of North Cartage came to life.

Dufek has heard a lot of positive feedback from the production crew about their experience in Cape Girardeau and he thinks this helps promote the city as a film location.

“We are not going to be a major hub, but I think they recognize that in a small town and the community we have all the elements that can make this work,” Dufek said.

However, a state tax incentives program ended last year. That will be an obstacle to get more films in Missouri. Dufek said that if the program was still going on, the fact that Gone Girl was filmed here would have boosted Missouri’s film production.

For him, the fact that a major motion-picture was filmed in Cape Girardeau “is going to be quite a buzz for a long time.” He thinks the CVB and Department of Tourism are doing a good job promoting Cape Girardeau as a great film location worthy of a trip to come see it.

“There’s already people actively working to keep that buzz going, but for how long, who’s to say?” Dufek said. “It could last for decades or it could just fade away.” 

Marine Perot was a KRCU reporter for KRCU in 2014.