This North Idaho burg doesn’t look so bad for a town recently blasted to smithereens by a cranky volcano.
As a matter of fact, the residents here seem downright giddy about the whole thing.
“We’ve been waiting a year for this,” Mayor Archie Hulsizer enthused Saturday, surrounded by a room full of revelers.
Of course, he was talking about the big-screen destruction of Wallace, not the real thing. On Saturday, more than 200 partiers flocked to a champagne gala and premiere of the film “Dante’s Peak,” hosted in Wallace - the heart of where the movie was filmed.
The movie, an action flick a la “Twister,” stars Pierce Brosnan as a volcanologist who goes “wherever there’s a volcano with an attitude.” His latest stop - Dante’s Peak (played by Wallace), a town perched below a volcano of the same name.
Actress Linda Hamilton is the city’s mayor who falls in love with the scientist just as the volcano decides to blow its top. And boy does it.
Although the movie is about as deep as a kiddie pool, North Idaho residents will dig watching Interstate 90 crumble as the volcano rumbles to life. Other familiar haunts get scorched, blasted, ash-caked and otherwise covered in molten lava. By the end, Wallace looks like it received an unscheduled visit from the Apocalypse.
“Fortunately it’s just a movie,” said Sen. Jack Riggs, R-Coeur d’Alene, who attended the Elks Lodge gala.
Still, the special effects are enough to make visitors eye the surrounding mountains for signs of hot flashes. They won’t find any.
“I think it was over there,” actor Peter Jason said, pointing to an empty place amid the hills surrounding Wallace where the volcano was digitally inserted. Jason was the only star to attend the gala, although several Universal Studios officials also showed up.
Jason plays the cantankerous city councilman who doesn’t believe the mountain’s gonna blow. Like most naysayers in the movie, his character doesn’t last long.
When a local golf pro invited Jason to the Wallace premiere, “I said ‘What other actors are going to be there?’ He said none. So I said ‘I’ll be there.’ I thought we should be represented. The people here were so good to us.”
Jason, a veteran of 65 films, praised the hundreds of locals used in the movie. He said their enthusiasm for the job put them “above the level of Hollywood extras.”
Enthusiastic “Dante’s Peak” fans - many of whom were extras in the movie - couldn’t wait for the Saturday event and instead flocked to the flick’s first North Idaho showing in Post Falls on Friday.
Susan Hunt and Dannell Rasmussen, both of Post Falls, sat in the front row. Both were extras and came especially to find themselves and their friends in the teeming masses of screaming, panicking faces fleeing from the volcano’s destruction.
“We don’t want to miss a thing,” Rasmussen said.
She and Hunt - who met while carpooling to Wallace for filming - dressed in the same clothes they’d worn as extras.
Although their faces may be nothing but a split-second blur to the untrained eye, the women, laughing and cheering, spotted themselves several times.
After the movie, the theater manager had the extras sign a “Dante’s Peak” poster. “We want the autographs of all the stars - even if you’d miss them if you blinked,” said Peggy Murray.
In the parking lot, extras swapped contraband photographs of Brosnan they snuck during filming. A vendor hawked “real ‘Dante’s Peak’ ash.”
Before the movie even ended, Hunt and Rasmussen were plotting to buy the video version, frame the movie poster and see the movie for a second time Saturday. Rasmussen has taped every interview Brosnan has given to plug the movie.
“He just makes you drool,” she crooned.
Hunt added with a chuckle, “Our husbands are ready for this to be over.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ON THE WEB To catch a glimpse of “Dante’s Peak” action and information, visit the movie’s home page at http://www.dantespeak.com.
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