Filming begins on 'Rose Red' prequel

Ernest A. Jasmin; The News Tribune

"The Amityville Horror." "The House on Haunted Hill." "The Shining." Pierce County is a step closer to having its own haunted house franchise added to those macabre movies, as filming of the ABC television movie "The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer" kicked off Wednesday at Thornewood Castle in Lakewood.

"Diary" is a prequel to "Rose Red," the miniseries adapted from a novel by Stephen King, which aired on the network last January. Once again, Thornewood, a 28,000-square-foot bed-and-breakfast, doubles as the haunted domicile. This time, though, the story is set in turn-of-the-century Seattle and explains the events that led to the house's haunting. "Rose Red" was set in the modern era and featured a group of psychics who reawakened evil in the creepy, abandoned house.

Chris Goodenow | The News Tribune  Grip Martin Camera adjusts a light on the set of the ABC movie 'The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer,' as Lakewood's Thornewood Castle towers behind him.

Chris Goodenow | The News Tribune

Grip Martin Camera adjusts a light on the set of the ABC movie 'The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer,' as Lakewood's Thornewood Castle towers behind him.

"We don't have all of the dead trees hanging from our house this time," Thornewood owner Deanna Robinson said. "It's wonderful."

This could be the second of many makeovers for Thornewood, which already received $500,000 in improvements for the original miniseries. If "Diary" scores as well in the ratings as "Rose Red," Thornewood could be featured in a series, according to Mark Carliner, who shares executive producing duties with King.

"It could endure; we don't know," he said. "So, everyone in Tacoma should be rooting for us and calling all their friends to watch."

"Rose Red" was a sweeps week coup, with an average of 18.5 million viewers over three nights and an 8.5 rating, said ABC spokesman Jeff Lindsey. An average of about 200,000 Western Washington households were tuned in each night, according to Seattle's ABC affiliate, KOMO Channel 4.

The novel "The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer," published when "Rose Red" aired, became a surprise bestseller, further whetting ABC's appetite. The book - written as a memoir, with one of the "Rose Red" characters credited as editor - was originally intended as a promotional tool, not a stand-alone product, Carliner said.

But the book climbed the New York Times best seller list, perhaps bolstered by the popular assumption that King wrote it. In June, King revealed that it was actually his buddy, Northwest thriller writer Ridley Pearson. Pearson also wrote the "Diary" screenplay.

"It was a huge surprise to all of us that the book took on a whole life of its own," Carliner said.

That sense of surprise helped get the prequel shot. Many of the interior shots in "Rose Red" were filmed on a sound stage constructed at the old Sand Point Naval Station in Seattle. But that set was dismantled before ABC gave the prequel the green light.

Also, "Diary," which will air in a two-hour time slot, will be shot for about $6 million (about one-fifth the cost of "Rose Red") and production will end in about a month, versus the three months it took to shoot "Rose Red." So there is less time and money to move around, Carliner said.

That means much of the film's budget will be spent in Pierce County, on everything from catering to props to housing. Based on figures from previous TV movies, Washington State Film & Video Office director Suzy Kellett estimated local revenues for "Diary" will be between $600,000 and $1.5 million.

A chunk of the money will be spent on hired local talent. A majority of the film crew is local, Carliner said, and about 200 extras answered a call issued by Federal Way talent agency Atmosphere Casting.

Randall Dickey, 48, of Puyallup is among the extras. He stood by Wednesday for his chance to play a grounds keeper.

"I take vacation time to do this," said Dickey, who was also a cameraman on "Life or Something Like It," starring Angelina Jolie. "I'm just a real movie buff. ... I love everything about Hollywood, so this is kind of a hobby of mine."

The stars of "Diary" include Lisa Brenner ("The Patriot") and Steven Brand as the Rimbauers, as well as Kate Burton, Tsai Chin and Dierdre Quinn. South African actress Tsidii Leloka is the only returning actor. She reprises her role as Sukeena, the maid.

Craig Baxley returns as director.

The movie could air as early as May, though no date has been set, Carliner said.

Ernest Jasmin: 253-274-7389
(Published 12:30AM, January 9th, 2003)

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