E.L. Smith Quarry has role in new Star Trek movieKyle Martel
The E.L. Smith Quarry
BARRE TOWN – One of Vermont's most storied quarries – the cavernous E.L. Smith Quarry in Graniteville – will flash forward to the 23rd Century this week when it makes a digitally enhanced cameo appearance in the newest Star Trek movie.
"We finally hit the big screen!" crowed Todd Paton, director of tourism and visitor services at Rock of Ages Corp., which owns the quarry that is featured on one of the trailers for the new movie.
Seems the folks from Paramount Pictures needed a sheer cliff to add a little extra drama to an exciting car chase scene featuring a pre-captain version of one James T. Kirk.
In the scene, a very young Kirk is driving a red convertible with a futuristic police officer in hot pursuit when he slams on the brakes at the quarry's precipice, is thrown from the vehicle and briefly dangles from the rock lip of a huge hole that is 600 feet deep.
Although none of the actors ever set foot in Vermont, Paton said they were digitally inserted on footage that was shot at the local quarry with his assistance a year ago.
Paton said he fielded a call from Paramount last spring inquiring about the possibility of using the quarry as a backdrop in a scene for an unnamed movie that was scheduled to be released in 2009.
"We didn't know it was 'Star Trek' at first," Paton said, explaining a "scout team," including Tommy Harper from Paramount and Giles Hancock from George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic, spent an entire Saturday last May taking video and still photographs of the quarry.
"They wouldn't say what movie it was for," he said.
According to Paton, Hancock and Harper shot footage and hundreds of aerial photographs from a helicopter they rented in New Hampshire, and then accompanied him to the bottom of the quarry – stopping every few feet to take more photographs – in a "rider box."
"All I knew is it was a chase scene," explained Paton, who learned a little more than a month ago that the Rock of Ages' quarry would be briefly featured in the new "Star Trek" movie.
"We're very excited to be a part of this worldwide phenomenon," said Paton, a devotee who grew up watching Star Trek on television.
"We, along with the millions of dedicated fans, have been eagerly anticipating the release since production began," he added. "The trailers look absolutely breathtaking."
Paton said the company agreed not to discuss the movie in the run-up to its release, but he said a few alert Trekkies – including one student who recently toured Rock of Ages' Visitors' Center with his class – made the connection.
"He said: 'I know it's 'Star Trek,'" Paton said of the student.
"Star Trek" isn't Rock of Ages' first brush with either Hollywood or an iconic television series that was successfully parlayed into a series of box office smashes, according to Paul Hutchins, the company's vice president of administration.
In 1996, Warner Brothers invested pretty heavily in converting the E.L. Smith Quarry into the ice-covered lair of "Mr. Freeze" – a character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger – in the 1997 film "Batman and Robin." However, uncooperative weather conditions and a movie that was already way over budget prompted the decision to scrap the sheer ice wall the crew from Warner Brothers had gone to such great pains to create in favor of filming those scenes on a studio set.
According to Hutchins, "Batman and Robin" would have involved some on-location shooting, while the chase scene from "Star Trek" was filmed in Bakersfield, Calif.
"Still, we'll be in the credits in the end," he said of the local granite manufacturer. "It's not going to generate one order, but it is kind of fun."MORE IN Central Vermont
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