A film crew that has spent weeks in the East Valley with the likes of Burt Reynolds, Raquel Welch and Charles Durning was set up in the parking lot of Mesa Centennial Center on Tuesday with yet another big-name star.
Phyllis Diller had flown in from California for the day to film a small role as a carjacking victim with a much younger boyfriend in "Forget About It," which has been filmed at numerous local spots.
Everyone on the set — from the movie’s director on down — jockeyed to pose for a snapshot with the star. "I always wanted a picture with her, ever since we knew she would be on board," said Manny Flores, an associate producer on the film and director B.J. Davis’ assistant. Diller, 86, said between takes that she had never shot a movie in the Valley, but "worked in this city for 40 years" performing countless stand-up comedy shows through her career.
Diller displayed a spry personality to go with her relatively youthful face, the result of the plastic surgeries she often incorporated into her act before she retired from live performances less than two years ago. She noted the difference between stage comedy and movie making.
"When I was live, everything was working very hard, and you had to work very hard and fast," she said. "This is just the opposite, just the opposite. It's the slowest."
A semi-regular on the TV soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful," Diller said she's been in 25 to 30 movies, "but a lot of them weren't really anything you'd want to see."
She said she is looking forward to seeing "Forget About It" when it reaches theaters sometime around Thanksgiving. Much of the East Valley will be watching for it along with her. The movie is a comedy about a mobster (Mesa resident Michael Paloma) sent to a mobile-home retirement community by the witness protection program. Mesa's Sunrise Village Mobile Home Park provided the setting for most of the filming. Reynolds, Welch, Durning and Robert Loggia, who wrapped up their work a week ago, all play neighbors of Paloma's.
Park manager Mary Smith said residents never lost the thrill of seeing the stars, who began to blend in after a while. "If you saw them walking down the street and didn't know they were movie stars you'd think they were just residents of the park — except Raquel," she said. Mesa’s Falcon Field and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport have been used for location shooting, along with Usery Mountain Recreational Area northeast of Mesa, Casino Arizona and a downtown Phoenix building that was the scene of a bank robbery over the weekend. Controlled mayhem has been breaking out all over the Valley.
Diller's "carjacking" was the second filmed for the movie. Monday night, Alice Sliger turned on the lights for the other one at the Buckhorn Baths motel, which she built at Main Street and Recker Road in Mesa with her husband in 1936.
"Oh, I don’t know if it’ll do a lot for the motel business, but it’s giving us some action and activity, making it interesting," said Sliger, 97.
About 70 percent of the film crew is from Arizona, and a couple hundred more Arizonans have performed as extras.
Sunrise Village resident Chuck Albin said he spent a total of about 15 minutes walking up and down one of the park’s streets, whipping his head around to watch a "speeding" 30 mph car. "Forget About It" has a bit more than a week left of shooting, and the crew will be returning to Sunrise Village. Albin, 76, said it's been fun to watch the movie being made, "but I think we’re going to be happy to see them go. A lot of our activities have been disrupted," he said.
"We got to play our bingo on Friday night, but we missed our Saturday morning coffee."