BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
Sparky’s Diner in Garnerville, long an important hub of the North Rockland community, has become a favorite for a whole new crowd: Hollywood movie-makers.
Several movies and TV shows have filmed scenes at the North Rockland eatery in the past four years. Soon to be added to the list is a Julia Roberts’ movie, “Ben is Back.” The Rockland County Times confirmed “Ben is Back” will be in town soon, having reserved Sparky’s restaurant and parking lot for two days and nights of filming.
In “Ben is Back,” Roberts plays the role of Holly Burns, a mother whose troubled son Ben Burns [Lucas Hedges] shows up at the family’s home Christmas eve after a period of estrangement. The family is delighted but soon Roberts’ character learns Ben is still in harm’s way.
Lucas Hedges’ real-life father Peter Hedges, author of several novels, plays and movie screenplays, is the writer and director of “Ben is Back.”
Roberts and the father-son team of Hedges account for six Academy Award nominations over the course of their careers with Roberts the winner of the Best Actress Oscar for 2000’s “Erin Brokovich.”
The 20-year-old Lucas Hedges was a Best Supporting Actor nominee this past year for “Manchester by the Sea,” and Peter Hedges received a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for 2002’s “About a Boy.” Originally an author and screenwriter exclusively, Hedges has since added director to his resume, directing three feature films in the past decade or so.
Jeannie Nicolakis and her team at Sparky’s have been thrilled with the attention Hollywood has bestowed upon the diner. “We’re moving up in the world,” said longtime Sparky’s server Laurie Murdock.
The fun started for Sparky’s back in 2013 with filming for “True Story,” a project co-produced by Brad Pitt and starring Jonah Hill and James Franco. In the final edit of “True Story,” special effects were used to superimpose the outside of Sparky’s to appear at the base of a tall northwest mountain.
During the “True Story” filming at Sparky’s, Pitt did not make an appearance, but Jonah Hill was on hand and somewhat interactive with onlookers.
Will Julia Roberts, formerly the highest paid actress in the world and a four-time Academy Award-nominated superstar, be on site for the “Ben is Back” scenes to be filmed at Sparky’s?
That remains to be seen and the Rockland County Times will be here to update you if and when that information becomes available. “Ben is Back” is scheduled to film at Sparky’s Tuesday, January 16 and Wednesday, January 17 of the new year.
Something else to be aware of; several of the Hollywood productions to visit Rockland County in recent years have sought out Rockland residents to appear as extras in their films. No word yet on whether that will be the case with “Ben is Back.”
There is one downside to Sparky’s burgeoning popularity with Hollywood movie moguls: North Rockland’s favorite diner will once again be closed for two days.
Arrange accordingly, Sparky’s fans!