NEW CASTLE, Pa. – Preparations are underway at Westminster College and in McConnell’s Mill State Park for the filming of “The Pale Blue Eye,” a soon-to-be Netflix movie.
The Lawrence County commissioners approved a contract with Pale Blue Eye Productions LLC for the filming, which will involve the use of the covered bridge at the state park.
The movie, starring Christian Bale and Harry Melling, requires set and production crews changing aspects of the scenery in the state park and on the Westminster campus in New Wilmington to create areas that reflect the time frame of the mid-1800s.
The thriller, adapted from Louis Bayard’s 2003 novel and directed by Scott Cooper, revolves around the attempt to solve a series of murders that took place in 1830 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Interim Lawrence County administrator Joe Venasco said he and county engineer Bill Humphrey of Taylor Engineering met with the film company in October to discuss the details.
Ultimately, the commissioners decided that for safety reasons, the county-owned covered bridge would be closed for the duration of the filming, through mid-December. However, emergency vehicles will be able to access the bridge.
Commissioner Chairman Morgan Boyd noted areas featured in movies filmed locally commonly see an uptick in tourism.
“It’s a really big operation,” Venasco marveled. “That’s what was most shocking to me. You’re talking about hundreds of people involved in the production, set crew, preparations, all of those things. We’re hoping they’re staying in Lawrence County hotels, eating in local restaurants and patronizing the local businesses.”
The film company also has established agreements with Slippery Rock Township supervisors for use of the roads in the park, with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for using part of the park property, and with Westminster College to use its scenic Quandrangle area of the campus.
Commissioner Dan Vogler said he drove through the state park on Thanksgiving Day and the covered bridge already was closed, and will be closed to traffic for three weeks.
The crews already were changing some scenery there, including painting on the bridge and laying mulch on the road.
The film producers have assured the county they will restore everything to its former state when the filming is done, and likewise at Westminster College. Crews are working at Westminster campus this week, removing 20- to 30-foot high light posts, changing out doors of buildings, dismantling benches, mulching sidewalks to look like dirt roads, and changing any indicators of a more modern time.
Modern-era features on Westminster’s quad — surrounded by Gothic-style buildings Old Main, Browne and Ferguson halls and the McGill Library — are being removed or disguised to create the look of West Point during the 1830s.
Filming at both locales will take place through Dec. 13.
Bale is an Academy Award-winning actor known for his role as Batman in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, as well as roles in “Out of the Furnace,” “The Fighter,” “American Psycho,” “American Hustle” and more.
Melling is best known for his role as Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films. In 2020, he co-starred in the acclaimed Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit.”
Bale will play a veteran detective in the movie, investigating the murders with the help of Melling’s character, a detail-oriented cadet who later will become the world-famous author, Edgar Allan Poe, who bequeathed us the detective genre.
Nearly 120 people attended an Oct. 22 on-campus casting call for the film, seeking extras to portray cadets and officers.