A Cinematic Event: “Sometimes a Great Movie: Paul Newman, Ken Kesey and the Filming of the Great Oregon Novel.” Author Matt Love in Astoria • July 28
For the past three months, author Matt Love has been making the rounds of bookstores all over Oregon, talking about his new book, “Sometimes a Great Movie: Paul Newman, Ken Kesey and the Filming of the Great Oregon Novel.” Now, Love’s Northwest book tour comes to Astoria, for a screening/signing/storytelling event at KALA@HIPFiSHmonthly, at 1017 Marine Drive in Astoria. Doors open at 6:30pm on Saturday, July 28, the show begins at 7pm. Admission is $5, with a no-host beer and wine bar, plus trivia questions, prizes, a Q & A with the author, perusal of Love’s movie memorabilia, movie trailers, home movies of the filming production and screening of the movie.
In June 1970, the biggest movie star in the world traveled to the Oregon Coast to film an epic novel about a defiant family of loggers written by a home-grown counterculture hero. The star was Paul Newman. The author was Ken Kesey. The story was “Sometimes a Great Notion” and it has a fanatical following in the Pacific Northwest.
What ensued was a wild working vacation between Hollywood and Oregonians involving beer, sex, scotch, loggers, beaches, and perhaps, a spectacularly vandalized pool table. In “Sometimes a Great Movie,” Love documents the legend of that magical summer and presents over a 125 never-before-seen photographs, including many in color. It’s the third installment in his Newport trilogy.
Love is the author/editor of eight books about Oregon, including, the best selling “Far Out Story of Vortex I,” “Citadel of the Spirit: Oregon’s Sesquicentennial Anthology,” and “Gimme Refuge: The Education of a Caretaker.” He writes the “One Man’s Beach” column for Oregon Coast TODAY and the “On Oregon” blog for Powells, is a featured writer in the Coast Weekend, and for 8 years was a contributing columnist to HIPFiSHmonthly. In 2009, Love won the Oregon Literary Arts’ Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award for his contributions to Oregon history and literature. He lives in South Beach and teaches English and journalism at Newport High School. He’s currently working on a novel about teaching in a public high school.
Paul Newman’s Double: The Dean Fillmore Story
Dean Fillmore was a logger hired to play Newman’s body double in the film. In this excerpt from the book, Fillmore recounts his unlikely brush with stardom and his relationship to Newman.
We were logging east of Taft, near Lincoln City, and here came these big stretch vans up the road. There must have been fifteen or twenty people, a bunch of college kids. They were shooting a movie and asked if I would like to be Paul Newman’s double. I said I didn’t know if I could do it, take the time. The production people just shut down part of Jepson Logging, the outfit I was working for, and paid them what they would have made during the summer. They hired the whole logging crew and the equipment.
I was thirty-eight years old and a pretty big fan of Newman. I’d been working in the woods since nineteen fifty-two.
I had to train the guys how to use a chainsaw because they didn’t know squat about chainsaws and falling trees. I got the impression that Paul had handled a saw before. He picked it up pretty good. I told him to keep a good grip on it, because those damn things, a log, can really hit the bar…it’ll kick back at you.
The highest Paul ever got in a tree was six feet. I remember they cut about an eight-foot chunk off the top of a tree, a pole I guess, and put it on a platform. And Paul sat on top of the tree, and they had it on a dolly where they could make it swing a little bit. It was right on the edge of a canyon so it looked like he’s way up in the air. They used that shot when he was on top of the tree, which was me from far off in the picture.
One time he climbed up the pole and they filmed a bunch of outtakes, funny things, that they would show later at parties and stuff. He would climb up there and act like he fell out of the tree and the grips would catch him.
In the mornings, I’d show up at the Dunes Motel to head out to location. About ninety percent of the crew were staying there and we’d go get a load of them and go out to the set. We’d always be waiting around and there would be these women coming out of the guys’ rooms. The Hollywood guys. They had a lot of women.
They had two filming units and I did all the long shots in the second unit. All the face shots, naturally, that’s Paul, but all the long shots when you don’t see his face, that’s me. I wasn’t part of the beach scenes. I was the logging guy, the tree faller. I remember one time Paul asked me if I could drop a tree to an exact spot or something like that. I tossed my tin hat to the ground not far away and cut a tree that came right down next to it. He was pretty impressed.
Newman was just an ordinary kind of guy. I was surprised he didn’t act like a big star. He just sat there and would talk to you about whatever. I called him Paul and he called me Dean. I took my family out to the sets a couple of time and took some pictures. Nobody said a thing.
Paul asked a lot of questions about logging. He wanted to make it as realistic as he could. He asked me about rigging that tree up, where Henry Fonda got smashed up in his shoulder. He wanted to know if I could make that happen, because some trees, they do what’s called barber-chairing. That’s when the tree slabs up and it looks like a kind of barber chair. What happens is, you don’t cut a big enough piece and it can come back and whack you. It’s killed people. I tried to do it naturally, but it wouldn’t work. The spruce trees were the worst for barber-chair, so I finally took my saw and split that sucker just as high as I could reach, then they got a four-wheeler hooked on it and they pulled it to where it would start slabbing, like in the movie. It looked pretty realistic.
The wrap party was pretty good. It was at a supper club and bar, in Newport years ago, Jake’s High Tide. Newman was there, the whole cast. They were just partying and getting down. There was kind of a pop band if I remember right. Newman was laughing and joking and having a good time. I was partying too.
I got a regular salary, probably about fifty dollars a day for falling, and every time I climbed a tree, that was another twenty-five. I came out pretty good, but there was a lot of waiting around and I told them ‘Well, I’m getting kind of bored sitting around waiting for you. I’m about to go back to work.’ And they said, ‘How about we give you another four hundred a week?’ I didn’t really expect to get any money but I did.
When the filming was over, they gave me two of the saws, the big one twenty-five and the eighty (horsepower). They gave me five pairs of cork boots and a check for a thousand dollars and said ‘thanks.’