You never know who's sleeping near the air-conditioner in this town, with four movies on the go! Debra Martin Chase, the famous director of Princess Diaries, which made $109 million in the U.S. alone, just slipped into Winnipeg.
She's lensing a sixth American Girl movie with young heroine Jade Pettyjohn and Winnipeg-born actress Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame. The former lawyer is also the producer of Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, Cinderella (starring Brandy, Whitney and Whoopi) and The Cheetah Girls movies. She and crew started filming Monday (she won't reveal the plot, though rumour has it there's a gymnastics theme) and they're using Winnipeg locations such as Tec Voc, Riverbend Elementary and the Exchange Cafe.
Martin Chase, who lives in the Hollywood Hills, says she's had a great time dining out at 529 Wellington, has been to 10 Spa in the Fort Garry Hotel several times and is planning to hit some fringe shows. As for filming in the 'Peg, she says, 'Winnipeg is incredibly supportive. The tax incentives are really, really great, and people have bent over backward to be supportive.'
So why does this big-time producer, associated with Disney, like doing young-girl movies? 'There are great stories to be told, and if you tell it right, both the young girls and older women relate to it.' And then there's the young star power she attracts. 'We were very fortunate to have Anne Hathaway in Princess Diaries -- enormously talented. Scarlett Johansson and January Jones and everybody came to try out, but Annie was just 'it' from the moment we saw her audition.'
'And we put America Ferrera (of Ugly Betty) in her first movie, and we got Blake Lively right out of Burbank High School (both in Sisterhood).'
As for working with grown-up divas, Martin Chase says Queen Latifah of Just Wright is just as you'd expect her to be -- smart and funny -- and Whitney Houston was gracious and co-operative.
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PLAYERS CUP AUCTION: Chicago Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews, who is the host of the week-long Players Cup golf-related events held this week, was dead last to go up as a golf mate on the auction block at the big Boston Pizza bash Monday night. Still, he and his Can Tour star golf partner Adam Hadwin fetched $2,000 from a beaming Laurie Finley, sales and marketing exec at the Winnipeg Free Press after MC Joe Aiello called out 'I'll go back to delivering papers if you'll go to $2,000.'
Dragon's Den reality show star Jim Treliving of Boston Pizza fame and fortune, who's never short of investment money, earlier put out $4,000 to get a great game Tuesday with NHL celeb Doug Gilmour and Can Tour Star Matt Johnson at Pine Ridge Golf Club.
Spotted: executive director of the Players Cup and prez of Market Force One (MF1) Ryan Hart, also Grant Skinner of Pro Ice Sports and Rumor's comedian Dan Verville. Christine Schellenberg of Rehab Centre for Children and Chuck LaFleche of the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation were happy to be in attendance, as proceeds will be split between the two groups this year.
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PLAYERS CUP ACTION: Jonathan Toews' parents are a couple of lovebirds! They were out supporting their son Monday night -- and celebrating their anniversary. 'He's my first and my best husband!' said Andree Gilbert of hubby Bryan Toews. 'Well, I came first and then there were the two kids, so I guess I'm No. 3,' laughed Toews. 'I'm just kidding!' he said, hugging her closely.
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STAR-SPOTTING: Winnipeg marathon runner Janet Kastellanos moved her ballerina daughter, Alexa, to star-studded New York City this weekend where she will be attending the prestigious Joffrey Ballet school. Mom stayed in the Trump Soho while Alexa was moving into residence.
And who appeared in the elevator but red-headed film star Ann-Margret. Kastellanos also saw the newly svelte Kirstie Alley of Dancing with The Stars in the glam hotel lobby.
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BACK TO GRADE 7 WITH CAREY WILSON: You'll never guess whom yours truly caught stuffing his face with pizza -- NHL great Carey Wilson, my old Grade 7 student from General Byng. I was in my early 20s (honest!) teaching junior high -- English, music, theatre and sex ed, when we first knew each other.
'You were a kind of wild teacher,' he said. 'I remember you making us dance the three-step!' And I remember Wilson and his buddies never missing a sex ed class. In fact, if a few students were away sick, they'd slip in some pals and make it a suspiciously full house. I'd have to start out the class, by saying, 'I believe some of you boys belong across the hall?
Got tips, events, sightings, unusual things going on? Call Maureen's tip line at 474-1116, email Maureen.Scurfield@Winnipegfreepress.com or send mail to The Insider c/o The Winnipeg Free Press at 1355 Mountain Ave. Winnipeg R2X 3B6.