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  1. Montreal gladly reclaims its 'Hollywood North' tag BRENDAN KELLY, The Gazette Published: Thursday, May 10, 2007 It's amazing what a little labour peace can do for the film business. Only two months after a long, bitter dispute between two rival film technicians unions was finally resolved, local movie folks are positively euphoric as they gear up for their busiest period of Hollywood shooting in years. Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt, Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Evangeline Lilly and John Malkovich are all on their way to shoot in Montreal in the coming weeks, and Hans Fraikin - film commissioner at the Quebec Film and Television Council - said Hollywood filming in the city is definitely going to top last year's tally of $150 million. He thinks the total might actually inch toward the $200-million mark and he said the boom is directly tied to the resolution in late February of the feud between the Alliance quebecoise des techniciens de l'image et du son (AQTIS), the local film union, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), an American union. They were fighting over who should represent the province's film workers. Cate Blanchett: with Brad Pitt. "We were close to total industrial implosion at the beginning of the year," Fraikin said. "It was Armageddon. Now it's looking healthier than expected. But we worked hard on resolving the conflict and convincing people that Quebec was open for business again. And it's paying off." Local industry players got news this week that Death Race 3000 will be produced here. This is a remake of the 1975 cult classic Death Race 2000 that starred David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone in a story set in the future about a violent road race that takes place between New York and Los Angeles. The remake will star British actor Jason Statham and is being produced by Tom Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner. The other recent addition to the local film-shoot lineup is Get Smart, the big-screen adaptation of the classic 1960s spy-spoof TV series. Carell will star as goofball secret agent Maxwell Smart, Hathaway will play sultry Agent 99, and Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson will play Agent 23, a newly created character. The producers will shoot only a part of the film here, spending around 20 days in town next month. Pitt and Blanchett will be here for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a Paramount production directed by David Fincher and adapted from the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story about a man who begins to age backwards. That film has already wrapped several months of shooting in New Orleans, and the filmmakers will be here for just eight days at the end of month. They will be filming Old Montreal as Paris and Moscow in winter, which will entail importing huge amounts of artificial snow. Far and away the biggest shoot on the way is The Mummy 3. The crew is already in pre-production for the third instalment in the Mummy series, which begins filming here July 27 and is expected to occupy several sound stages at Mel's Cite du Cinema studio right through to the end of the year. It is estimated that the producers will hire between 800 and 900 local technicians to work on the Universal Pictures project. Brendan Fraser - who was here last summer shooting a new version of Journey to the Center of the Earth - reprises his role as adventurer Rick O'Connell, but Rachel Weisz, who played his wife, will not be on board this time. Action star Jet Li will play the mummy, Michelle Yeoh plays a wizard, and 26-year-old Australian thespian Luke Ford will join the series as O'Connell's son. Filming will continue in China after the Montreal shoot. Kate Beckinsale has been here for a few weeks shooting Whiteout, a thriller about a U.S. marshal hunting a killer in Antarctica, and production has been under way here since late March on the U.S.A. Network series The Dead Zone, which stars Anthony Michael Hall. Alberta-born Lost star Lilly and Malkovich are due here in early June for Afterwards, a Canada-France co-production that co-stars Moliere lead Romain Duris. Brian Baker, business agent at the Quebec branch of the Directors Guild of Canada, said that one reason filming is booming is because the Hollywood producers are ramping up production to stockpile films in case of labour unrest in Hollywood next year. There is widespread speculation that both the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America could go on strike in 2008. "But that's not the whole story (behind the Montreal boom) because they're dying in Toronto," Baker said. Fraikin said the shoots are back in our city because the labour issues have been settled. "No producer is going to go anywhere near an unstable industrial environment," Fraikin said. "They can't take the risk." It also helped that two of the bigger hits of the first half of the year, 300 and Blades of Glory, were both shot at least in part here, reminding Hollywood producers that Montreal is a good location. [email protected]