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Elgin, Yorkville locations set for movie thriller 'Contagion'
By Harry Hitzeman | Daily Herald Staff

The old Sherman Hospital in Elgin will be used in filming for a big-name Hollywood movie this fall and winter.


John Starks | Staff Photographer

The old Sherman Hospital in Elgin will be used in filming for a big-name Hollywood movie this fall and winter.


John Starks | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/5/2010 8:51 AM | Updated: 10/5/2010 11:52 AM

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Suburban filming locations for the fall 2011 thriller "Contagion" are spreading like the virus outbreak in the movie itself.

Warner Bros. officials have inked deals to shoot scenes in the old Sherman Hospital in Elgin and outside a high school in Yorkville and have inquired about filming at a school, private residence and funeral home in Wilmette.

"We certainly emphasize downtown Chicago, its skyline and the familiar features it has to offer. When you get beyond downtown Chicago, there is an incredible variety for settings for films," said Mike Claffey, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which houses the Illinois Film Office.

"Contagion" is directed by Steven Soderbergh, whose Hollywood credits include "Erin Brockovich," "Traffic," along with "Ocean's Eleven" and its two sequels.

It is about a virus outbreak that starts in Hong Kong and finds its way to Chicago.

It stars Hollywood A-listers Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne and Marion Cotillard, and will be shooting in Chicago from mid-October though mid-November.

Sherman spokeswoman Christine Priester said officials signed the contract Monday to use the vacant bed tower, emergency rooms and operating rooms at the old Sherman site, 934 Center St., for several weeks in late fall and early winter.

Priester said Damon, Winslet and Paltrow are expected at the filming, which will have a closed set.

Immediate care and outpatient services at the Graham Pavilion will not be affected by the shoot, she said.

Priester said hospital officials submitted the old Sherman site to a list of locations at the Illinois Film Office and Soderbergh was interested.

"It's not often you find a hospital that recently closed and is not seeing patients," she said. "Luckily, we were selected. It's exciting for Sherman, Elgin and the surrounding area,"

Elgin city spokeswoman Sue Olafson said "Contagion" crew members also have inquired about how much the city would charge for police officer overtime to control traffic and shut down streets.

Olafson said the film would be a boost to the city, whose Bluff City Cemetery was used as a site for scenes in the remake of "Nightmare on Elm Street" in spring 2008.

"Elgin has so much to offer the film industry and more studios are recognizing that," Olafson said.

Last week, Warner Bros. submitted a request to film scenes in Wilmette at: Central School, a private residence on Greenleaf Avenue and at the WH Scott Funeral Home.

The Nov. 23 scene at the school will involve 232 background actors; part of the filming at the private home will require the street to be shut down so someone can be wheeled to an ambulance outside.

John Adler, Wilmette's director of community development, said the village will notify nearby residents this week and listen to their concerns. The application may be approved by the staff instead of the village board.

"We're at the beginning of the process," Alder said. "Any sort of filming is something a lot of people are interested in seeing happen in the town."

Officials at the Yorkville School District have OK'd a lease for Warner Bros. to set up equipment for a one-day shoot sometime in December behind Yorkville High School, but no exact date has been specified.

"The agreement is they're going to come in a couple weeks ahead of time and set up the scene," said Brian Debolt, building and grounds director for Yorkville Community School District 115. "They'll bring in the big-time actors for shooting. It sounds like they're going to be in and out."

He said producers were interested in a tree line behind the high school to accent a computer-generated pond and snow effects.

Illinois leaders have increased tax incentives for movies to be made in the Land of Lincoln and officials say the 2009 gangster film "Public Enemies" generated $46.7 million in business across the state ranging from set construction and pay to extras to cleaning and catering.

"We want filmmaking anywhere in Illinois because it creates jobs," Claffey said.

In the past several years, Hollywood has descended on numerous suburban sites for films, including the 2002 film "Road to Perdition" with Law and Tom Hanks in downtown Geneva and West Dundee and 2005's "Ice Harvest" with John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton, in which Carpentersville was featured in a couple scenes.

Open casting calls for "Contagion" were held in Chicago the past two weekends for extras of all ages and the movie it is expected to hit the big screen in October 2011.

The film also will be shot in Hong Kong and other locations. The publicist for "Contagion" could not be reached for comment Monday and last week.