POTIGRAFU, Romania -- The mayor of this drought-stricken village has never seen a movie with Nicole Kidman, but he'd like to make her an honorary citizen. \nMayor Gheorghe Voicu calls it "a hand from heaven for the locals" that "Cold Mountain," a big-budget movie starring Kidman and Jude Law and adapted from Charles Frazier's Civil War novel, is being filmed in the village of 1,300 people. \nVoicu has been busy this summer fixing up the kindergarten and village school with income earned from the Miramax-MGM film. \n"Cold Mountain," which began filming Monday in Potigrafu, marks Romania's entry into the market for big Hollywood movies. \nCosts remain low here: The average monthly salary is just 3.3 million lei -- about $100 -- substantially lower than in the nearby Czech Republic or Hungary, which have been popular with Western filmmakers looking for low costs and stunning architecture. \nAnthony Minghella, who directed the Oscar-winning "The English Patient," found the fields and virgin forests of southern Romania a perfect setting for the $80 million "Cold Mountain," which takes place in the American South. Later scenes will be shot in the mountainous region of Transylvania, in northern Romania. \nWestern producers say the unspoiled and underdeveloped Romanian countryside saves filmmakers the trouble and expense of digitally removing signs of modern times, such as buildings or power lines, that exist in the U.S. countryside. \n"Cold Mountain" tells the story of Inman, played by Law, a wounded Confederate soldier on a perilous journey back to his North Carolina home, where he hopes to reunite with his sweetheart, Ada, played by Kidman. \nThe movie's battle scenes will be thrashed out on pastures where cattle usually graze; dozens of villagers have helped set up wagons, watchtowers and U.S. flags, and more than 100 cattle farmers have been compensated about $300 a head for the inconvenience. \n"I love my animals, so I bought them food with the money," said Stelian Raducu, 71, who received about $900 compensation for three cows. \nFilm producers have laid gravel on the road, the first time it's been repaired in 60 years. \nRomanian extras are paid about $10 a day, less than a tenth what their Hollywood counterparts would make, while a small medieval castle can be rented out for a few hundred dollars a day. \nIn Potigrafu, some 25 miles north of the capital, Bucharest, life hasn't changed much for centuries. People draw water from wells along the street, and get around mainly on horses and carts or bicycles. Farmers till the soil by hand. The town is known in Romania mainly for clay pots and rush mats. \nAny cash is welcomed by residents, whose corn and sunflower crops have been hurt by three years of drought. \nThe film industry will bring Romania tens of million of dollars this year, according to Vlad Paunescu, managing director of Castel Films, the Romanian producers for "Cold Mountain"
Get stories like this in your inboxSubscribe