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Stars arriving, 'Ironweed' filming to begin

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Tired of the cold and sick of the snow, residents of New York's capital city are saying their hoorays for the bright lights of Hollywood and the start of rehearsals for 'Ironweed.'

Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, who will star in the movie version of William Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, arrive in Albany this week to prepare for rehearsals that are set to begin Monday at an undisclosed location.

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'Monday the balloon will go up ... people will start reading the script and preparing to go in front of the camera,' said Kennedy, who wrote the screenplay for 'Ironweed' with director Henry Babenco, who made the popular film, 'Kiss of the Spiderwoman.'

Several character actors for supporting parts still need to be chosen. Filming begins Feb. 23, 'then we're off and running until the end of May,' Kennedy said.

The powerful opening scene of the novel, where central character Francis Phelan meets his ghost in St. Francis cemetery in suburban Menands, will be replaced by a scene of Nicholson, playing Phelan, waking up in a vacant lot. The cemetery scene will be included in the movie, however.

Production crews have been scurrying around Albany and nearby Colonie, collecting props and putting the finishing touches on sets at several locations. The sites include a city mission, the mock interior of the Phelan house and a three-story farmhouse owned by Earl and Edna Smith of Cohoes to be used for exterior shots.

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The Smiths readily agreed to sign a contract allowing their house to be used in the film, but, 'We're not too overly excited about it,' Edna Smith said.

The big screen project will mean temporary jobs for about 1,500 Albany area residents who will work as extras during a day or two of shooting.

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