Drew Barrymore film will be shot in Alaska

Kyle Hopkins
Two women reach out to touch one of the California gray whales trapped by ice near Point Barrow in October 1988. The Soviet icebreaker Admiral Makarov in the distance helped by cutting a path through the Beaufort Sea ice pack to open water.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A California gray whale surfaces in the original breathing hole during the rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Rescuers cut dozens of breathing holes into the Arctic Ocean ice pack in an effort to lead the California gray whales to open water during the rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A California gray whale looks towards rescuers cutting another breathing hole into the ice during the 1988 rescue attempt near Point Barrow, Alaska.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The Soviet icebreaker Admiral Makarov and the cargo icebreaker Vladimir Arsenev came to the rescue of the California gray whales trapped in the ice near Point Barrow, Alaska, in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Aerial photograph of a polar bear walking on the Beaufort Sea ice pack near the California gray whale rescue attempt off Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A rescuer slaps the surface of the water in an effort to attract the California gray whales to use the breathing holes cut into the ice pack leading them to open water during the rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
California gray whale rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Two of the three California gray whales trapped in the ice near Point Barrow in October 1988, rest in one of the dozens of breathing holes cut into the Beaufort Sea ice pack during the rescue attempt.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A California gray whale surfaces in a breathing hole near rescuers that were cutting holes into the ice pack off Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Ron Morris, center, a NOAA spokesman, addresses the media during the rescue effort for three California gray whales that were trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988. The subsequent rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention while the U.S. and Soviet governments got together to devise a plan.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
California gray whale rescue attempt near Point Barrow, Alaska, in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents ride a sled drawn by a snowmachine as the Soviet ice-breaking cargo ship Vladimir Arsenev makes a path through the ice pack off Point Barrow during the California gray whales rescue in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Jason Christensen of Barrow watches two California gray whales surface in a breathing hole in the ice pack off Point Barrow in October 1988. The subsequent rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention while the U.S. and Soviet governments got together to devise a plan.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Three California gray whales were trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988. The subsequent rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention while the U.S. and Soviet governments got together to devise a plan.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents look at the three California gray whales that were trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988. The subsequent rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention while the U.S. and Soviet governments got together to devise a plan.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents watch the California gray whales surface for air in one of the breathing holes carved by rescuers in the Beaufort Sea ice off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Rescuers used chain saws to cut breathing holes and then shoved the ice blocks under the ice pack during the rescue effort of the three California gray whales found trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Cindy Lowry of Greenpeace and Jim Nollman lower an underwater audio device into the water during the whale rescue attempt in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Rescuers and the international media covering the whale rescue faced temperatures as cold as 30-degrees below zero on the ice pack off Point Barrow, Alaska in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
An Alaska Army National Guard CH-54 Skycrane helicopter carries a 9,000-pound ice smasher during the whale rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Rescuers used chain saws to cut breathing holes into the ice pack for the three California gray whales found trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Soviet ice-breaking cargo ship Vladimir Arsenev makes a path through the ice pack off Point Barrow during the California gray whales effort in October 1988. The rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention while the U.S. and Soviet governments got together to devise a plan.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Rescuers used chain saws to cut breathing holes into the ice pack for the three California gray whales found trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Rescuers attempt to keep one of the breathing hole free of ice during the California gray whales rescue effort near Point Barrow, Alaska in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention during the California gray whale rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Billy Adams of Barrow touches a California gray whale on the nose as it rests in one of the breathing holes carved into the Beaufort Sea ice pack off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents carved breathing holes in the Beaufort Sea ice off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
One of the three California gray whales surfaces in a breathing hole cut into the ice off Point Barrow during a rescue attempt in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A media crew walks past jumbled ice chunks on the Beaufort Sea during the California gray whale rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988. The rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The former oil field services company VECO used this screw-drive vehicle to help free the three California gray whales that were trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents carved breathing holes into the Beaufort Sea ice off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents carved breathing holes into the Beaufort Sea icepack off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents used poles to push blocks of ice, carved by chain saws, under the ice surface to form breathing holes in Beaufort Sea icepack off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents watch the California gray whales surface for air in one of the breathing holes carved by rescuers in the Beaufort Sea ice off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents used chain saws to carve breathing holes into the Beaufort Sea ice off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Two women reach out to touch one of the California gray whales trapped by ice near Point Barrow in October 1988. The Soviet icebreaker Admiral Makarov in the distance helped by cutting a path through the Beaufort Sea ice pack to open water.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A California gray whale surfaces in the original breathing hole during the rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Rescuers cut dozens of breathing holes into the Arctic Ocean ice pack in an effort to lead the California gray whales to open water during the rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A California gray whale looks towards rescuers cutting another breathing hole into the ice during the 1988 rescue attempt near Point Barrow, Alaska.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The Soviet icebreaker Admiral Makarov and the cargo icebreaker Vladimir Arsenev came to the rescue of the California gray whales trapped in the ice near Point Barrow, Alaska, in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Aerial photograph of a polar bear walking on the Beaufort Sea ice pack near the California gray whale rescue attempt off Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A rescuer slaps the surface of the water in an effort to attract the California gray whales to use the breathing holes cut into the ice pack leading them to open water during the rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
California gray whale rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Two of the three California gray whales trapped in the ice near Point Barrow in October 1988, rest in one of the dozens of breathing holes cut into the Beaufort Sea ice pack during the rescue attempt.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A California gray whale surfaces in a breathing hole near rescuers that were cutting holes into the ice pack off Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Ron Morris, center, a NOAA spokesman, addresses the media during the rescue effort for three California gray whales that were trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988. The subsequent rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention while the U.S. and Soviet governments got together to devise a plan.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
California gray whale rescue attempt near Point Barrow, Alaska, in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents ride a sled drawn by a snowmachine as the Soviet ice-breaking cargo ship Vladimir Arsenev makes a path through the ice pack off Point Barrow during the California gray whales rescue in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Jason Christensen of Barrow watches two California gray whales surface in a breathing hole in the ice pack off Point Barrow in October 1988. The subsequent rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention while the U.S. and Soviet governments got together to devise a plan.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Three California gray whales were trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988. The subsequent rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention while the U.S. and Soviet governments got together to devise a plan.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents look at the three California gray whales that were trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988. The subsequent rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention while the U.S. and Soviet governments got together to devise a plan.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents watch the California gray whales surface for air in one of the breathing holes carved by rescuers in the Beaufort Sea ice off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Rescuers used chain saws to cut breathing holes and then shoved the ice blocks under the ice pack during the rescue effort of the three California gray whales found trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Cindy Lowry of Greenpeace and Jim Nollman lower an underwater audio device into the water during the whale rescue attempt in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Rescuers and the international media covering the whale rescue faced temperatures as cold as 30-degrees below zero on the ice pack off Point Barrow, Alaska in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
An Alaska Army National Guard CH-54 Skycrane helicopter carries a 9,000-pound ice smasher during the whale rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Rescuers used chain saws to cut breathing holes into the ice pack for the three California gray whales found trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Soviet ice-breaking cargo ship Vladimir Arsenev makes a path through the ice pack off Point Barrow during the California gray whales effort in October 1988. The rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention while the U.S. and Soviet governments got together to devise a plan.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Rescuers used chain saws to cut breathing holes into the ice pack for the three California gray whales found trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Rescuers attempt to keep one of the breathing hole free of ice during the California gray whales rescue effort near Point Barrow, Alaska in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention during the California gray whale rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Billy Adams of Barrow touches a California gray whale on the nose as it rests in one of the breathing holes carved into the Beaufort Sea ice pack off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents carved breathing holes in the Beaufort Sea ice off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
One of the three California gray whales surfaces in a breathing hole cut into the ice off Point Barrow during a rescue attempt in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A media crew walks past jumbled ice chunks on the Beaufort Sea during the California gray whale rescue attempt near Point Barrow in October 1988. The rescue attempt drew worldwide media attention.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
The former oil field services company VECO used this screw-drive vehicle to help free the three California gray whales that were trapped by ice at Point Barrow in October 1988.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents carved breathing holes into the Beaufort Sea ice off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents carved breathing holes into the Beaufort Sea icepack off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents used poles to push blocks of ice, carved by chain saws, under the ice surface to form breathing holes in Beaufort Sea icepack off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents watch the California gray whales surface for air in one of the breathing holes carved by rescuers in the Beaufort Sea ice off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Barrow residents used chain saws to carve breathing holes into the Beaufort Sea ice off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the two-week California gray whale rescue effort which gained worldwide media coverage in October 1988.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News

How's this for a plot twist? The next major movie about Alaska is actually being filmed here.

A production company plans to begin shooting "Everybody Loves Whales," a $30 million movie starring Drew Barrymore, this September in Alaska, the executive producer said Friday.

The film is based on the 1988 attempt to rescue three gray whales trapped by sea ice near Barrow, though the majority of filming will take place in Anchorage. Barrymore plays a Greenpeace worker while John Krasinski -- Jim from NBC's "The Office" -- portrays a small-town news reporter covering the story.

The filmmakers are looking for Alaskans to play dozens of roles with casting to begin right away, executive producer Stuart Besser said in a phone interview.

"There's at least 1,000 extras, and there are probably about 30 to 40 speaking roles that we would attempt to get in Anchorage," said Besser, who recently served as executive producer on "The Losers" and "3:10 to Yuma."

The tale of California gray whales stranded above the Arctic Circle swung an international spotlight on Barrow, where a Soviet icebreaker eventually carved an escape route for two of the animals. A third had earlier disappeared and apparently died.

It was Roy Ahmaogak, now 50, who first spotted the whales bobbing in open patches in the ice one September day on his snowmachine. At the time he had been looking for a place to launch an aluminum boat to hunt fall bowheads.

(In Barrow, everybody loves whales for dinner.)

Ahmaogak said Friday the rescue effort brought people together -- the Russians and the U.S., the state and the feds, military and oil companies.

But he unplugged his phone during all the hubbub more than 20 years ago and isn't sure if he'd want to appear in the flick. Being an adviser might be alright.

"It'd be interesting to see how Hollywood works," he said.

Carolyn Robinson, executive producer for the Anchorage-based production services company SprocketHeads, said you'll soon see evidence of the project across the city.

"Anchorage, if you leave your house, you will see signs that this is going on," Robinson said. "Whether it's the actors walking down the street or the set up at a certain location, shooting outside."

Hollywood regularly makes movies about Alaska. There was the one about the Barrow vampires. The alien abductions in Nome. Al Pacino in the phony Nightmute of "Insomnia." But few major films shoot more than the scenery here.

That's changing, and not just with "Everybody Loves Whales," Robinson said. "There's two (additional) major features that I think will come here and one movie of the week."

Besser said the state's tax incentive program -- which allows movie-makers to recoup more than 30 percent of their spending in Alaska through transferable tax credits -- made it feasible to film here.

Movies that employ Alaskans, shoot in rural parts of the state and are filmed in winter are eligible for bigger tax breaks, said Alaska Film Office manager David Worrell.

The Barrow whale movie has been something of an open secret in Alaska for weeks. A movie industry trade site, Deadline.com, announced in April that the project was in the works. SprocketHeads has been calling for workers, upscale housing and gift-bag goodies for the cast and crew on Facebook and Twitter.

A company working on the film signed a deal to lease 12,000 square feet of office space in the Daily News building off of Bragaw Street until Dec. 14, said publisher Pat Doyle.

Besser, the executive producer, said the story will be based on real events, with the writers and director taking "literary license." He characterized it as an inspirational, family- oriented movie.

"It's not a documentary," he said.

Ken Kwapis ("The Office," "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") is directing, Besser said.

The movie is expected to take about 10 weeks to film. Shooting in Barrow will likely be limited to one or two weeks, the producer said, because the North Slope city doesn't have the hotels, housing and businesses to accommodate a months-long shoot.

"The scenes in the movie that take place in Barrow, we're trying to reconstruct in Anchorage," Besser said. The whole film will be shot in Alaska, he said.

Along with actors and extras, the filmmakers plan to hire construction workers, people to help with sets, props and wardrobe and other workers.

The movie is being distributed by Universal Pictures and is tentatively due to be released in 2012, according to the Internet Movie Database.

Read The Village, the ADN's blog about rural Alaska, at adn.com/thevillage. Twitter updates: twitter.com/adnvillage. Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334.

THE VILLAGE BLOG: How to audition for the movie
By KYLE HOPKINS
khopkins@adn.com
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