In our hearts, we always knew a global pandemic wouldn’t stop Liam Neeson.
For that reason, production on the film The Ice Road starring Neeson and Laurence Fishburne will keep on trucking in town until Sunday.
In the thriller, which commenced shooting in Manitoba Feb. 3, Neeson plays a truck driver who embarks on a rescue mission with his boss (Fishburne) after a remote diamond mine collapses in Canada’s far north.
The film was written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh.
Monday saw the most demanding day in the eight-week shoot in the vicinity of the water treatment plant on Deacon Road, according to producer Al Corley, who worked in Winnipeg before on the 2007 film You Kill Me with Sir Ben Kingsley.
"It’s basically the end of the movie," Corley said.
"It was by far the most extras we had. I think we had 90 extras today all dressed out in drilling gear, miner gear," Corley said. "It’s the part of the movie where our heroes come in and all the principal actors for the most part were there."
Corley says that in the face of production shutdowns elsewhere due to COVID-19, the city offered a refuge during the shoot.
"I must say we felt like we were in a bubble — in a good bubble," he said. "There were zero cases for the longest time and then there were some presumptive cases.
"As we watched the death rate go sky-high in different countries and in my own country in the States, we felt relieved we were out here working hard. We kind of felt removed in the world."
Corley said the film’s two famous stars were up for the difficulties of a shoot in a cold Manitoba winter.
"It’s always interesting to see why people do a movie like this when you know it’s going to be difficult — being out in nature," the producer said, referring to Neeson, Fishburne, cinematographer Tom Stern and director Hensleigh.
"Those people knew we were going to be out in the wild of the prairies. Not every actor or cinematographer or director is even game for that sort of thing," Corley said.
"I think you get a certain kind of person for whom the challenge becomes part of the beauty of not only the film but the part that they’re playing as well."
Corley also had lots of praise for the local actors who took roles in the film, including Arne MacPherson, Marshall Williams and Lauren Cochrane. Corley recalled casting some of the local actors for the movie You Kill Me in 2007 and back then, he said, "the acting pool... was what it was.
"I guess I kind of expected that when I came back here but when I got into the casting sessions with casting director Carmen Kotyk here, she started bringing actors in and I stopped halfway through the first day and I realized: there’s a lot of really good actors in this town," Corley said.
"The pool of actors here is not the same as it was. I was really quite amazed. Over and over again, we had these wonderful actors that just kept coming in."
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.
Updated on Monday, March 16, 2020 at 11:57 PM CDT: Adds photo