Courthouse takes center stage

Published 9:58 pm Friday, October 1, 2010

AN OVERHEAD SHOT of a scene being filmed in the main courtroom of the Decatur County Courthouse on Sept. 29 in Bainbridge. Local citizens in 1950s hairstyles and clothing, filled the courtroom gallery, observing the movie’s stars in their scenes.|Brennan Leathers

After filming outside Bainbridge most of last week, “Fishers of Men” cast and crew returned downtown to shoot scenes at two of the city’s landmarks, Willis Park and the Decatur County Courthouse.

Filming began this week at the Oak City Cemetery off College Street near the old Bainbridge High School.

Alex and Graham Miller, who play the twin Goodwyn brothers in “Fishers of Men,” were among the actors at the cemetery to film scenes focusing on the dramatic funeral of one of the movie’s main characters.

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On Tuesday, filming moved to Water Street downtown. A short scene was filmed in the Courthouse Annex, and a couple more were filmed in the office of local attorney Ryan Cleveland across the street. At the direction of the film’s production staff, Cleveland’s personal office was transformed to look like that of a 1950s attorney.

TAKING A BREAK from filming trial scenes on Wednesday at the Decatur County Courthouse Daniel Samonas and Ray Wise, who play Gordon Leemaster and his father, Herbert Leemaster, in “Fishers of Men.” Gordon testifies in a trial involving Pete Goodwyn, one of the movie's central characters, although the junior Leemaster has a secret he wants to keep with his father's help. |Brennan Leathers

Later on Tuesday, filming moved to the Willis Park gazebo, where Herbert Leemaster—played by veteran Hollywood actor Ray Wise—made an important announcement to the local press in fictional 1950s Bainbridge.

On Wednesday afternoon, filming took place inside the main courtroom of the historic Decatur County Courthouse. The main building of the courthouse dates to 1902 and underwent extensive restoration in the 1990s. The sunlight shining through the courtroom windows onto the polished wood furniture made for an exquisite set suitable for the highly dramatic scenes being filmed.

Professional Texas actress Noell Coet, who plays one of the Goodwyn’s Bainbridge High School classmates, “Ginny Wonders,” delivered important testimony in the trial scenes. Ginny is a meek girl from a poor family who finds herself tempted to do something she knows is wrong, executive producer Steven Camp said. Coet, in one of the film’s most interesting supporting roles, also has a powerful change of heart on the banks of the Flint River, in a scene that comes after her testimony in the trial.

The whole Leemaster family, including veteran Hollywood actress Robyn Lively as “Mrs. Macaire Leemaster,” was also present for the trial. Professional actor Tyler Hollinger plays fictional district attorney Bobby Moon, while real-life District Attorney Joe Mulholland has a non-speaking role as the assistant district attorney in the film.

At its core, “Fishers of Men” deals with a tragic turn of events that affects the lives of the twin Goodwyn brothers, Andy and Pete, according to Camp. Pete, the more virtuous of the two, is put on trial for a crime he didn’t commit. His life, already dampened by the tragic loss of a friend, is threatened to be destroyed by others’ deception. The trial absorbs the citizens of Bainbridge and its aftermath leads to Andy sacrificing himself so that Peter can go free and serve as a minister.

One brother’s personal sacrifice for his brother as he faces a bleak outcome contains allusions to the life of Jesus Christ, and is one of the movie’s most pervasive themes, Camp said.