- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

Baltimore will burn this spring Hollywood style as the cast and crew of the firefighter drama "Ladder 49" bring their pyrotechnics, and a shot of money, to the city starting March 24.
"There will be plenty of fires in the city," joked star John Travolta on Thursday, wearing a Baltimore Fire Department uniform and sitting in a run-down firehouse that producers planned to refurbish. "In fact, anyone who has a building they want to burn should let us know."
The film, which is scheduled to come out early next year, will bring about 300 direct jobs and more than 1,000 indirect jobs to the city, producer Casey Silver says.
Mr. Silver would not discuss how much money the film will likely generate, but the head of the Maryland Film Festival, Jed Dietz, says the impact on Baltimore will be "huge."
"This is the biggest film that's ever been made here, from a production standpoint," Mr. Dietz says.
Baltimore was chosen over several other cities, including Toronto and Philadelphia, to be the primary location for the thriller. The film's director, Jay Russell, already has directed one film in the area, "Tuck Everlasting," which was partially shot in Harford County.
Mayor Martin O'Malley, who helped campaign to win the movie, says the cast and crew will be working, and spending, in Baltimore through July.
"This is an economic shot in the arm for the city of Baltimore," Mr. O'Malley says.
Movies injected more than $48 million into Baltimore's economy last year, says Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office, which helped lure the production to Baltimore.
"When a film like this comes to a city, there are hotels booked, car rentals, restaurant reservations," Mr. Gerbes says, "but it's also a once-in-a-lifetime experience for people here. Next year, we can go to theaters and see Baltimore on the silver screen."
The movie also stars Joaquin Phoenix, who has been in Baltimore for more than a month researching his role with firefighters.
Mr. Phoenix plays a veteran firefighter trapped in a blaze he thinks might kill him. While he waits to see if his company, Ladder 49, can save him, he looks back over his career and family life. Mr. Travolta plays Mr. Phoenix's fire chief and mentor.
Mr. Travolta said he and Mr. Phoenix trained with firefighters by climbing ladders, navigating smoky mazes in full gear, rappelling from buildings and battling fires or "slaying the dragon" in firefighter slang.
"Joaquin slew his dragon," Mr. Travolta says. "I just got lost a lot."

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