More on Durning and ‘Far North’

Charles Durning spent weeks in Duluth in 1987. 1987 file/ News Tribune

Turns out the character actor Charles Durning spent several weeks in Duluth, Minn., in the fall of 1987 while he was filming the Sam Shepard movie “Far North,” which starred Jessica Lange.

Durning died of natural causes Monday in his home in Manhattan. I spent some time digging through the News Tribune’s “Far North” coverage for this story.

Here is some more on Durning and the making of the film:

The movie featured other known actors like Donald Moffat, Tess Harper and Patricia Arquette. It also called for three young blonde girls who could play Lange in flashbacks – which resulted in about 1,000 people showing up for a casting call. Sandra Iverson, then 5-years-old, and Lindsey Handel, 8, of Duluth were picked, along with Sarah Gramse, 13, of Burnsville, Minn.

After filming, young Iverson credited Durning with being nice and giving lots of hugs.

Much of the filming for the movie – which was mostly completed in October and November — was done inside a pop-up film studio in the Duluth Port Terminal, designed to look like a waterfront.

But other spots also got Hollywood treatment. A two-hour shoot happened in a weedy, vacant lot near International Multifoods Capitol 6 grain elevator. In the scene, Durning is wrapped in a blanket and Moffat a robe as they trekked along the railroad tracks.

According to the News Tribune:

“Between each take, Durning and Moffat were rushed coats and blankets to combat Friday’s freezing temperature. … No observers were allowed close enough to the filming to hear any of the lines that were spoken.”

The movie also called for a large living room, kitchen and dining room area that had a 1930s authenticity. The location manager lucked onto 2 Hawthorne Road in the Congdon neighborhood, which was owned by William Zinmaster. The scene of a 100th birthday party celebration took a night and the next day to film. Trailers lined the sidewalk and the crew had to be extra careful of the owner’s antiques.

There was a street scene shot in Canal Park near the Dewitt Seitz building and some footage near the Aerial Lift Bridge. The crew also filmed on Fourth Street between First and Second Avenue in Proctor.

“They asked us not to look out the windows or park on the street,” a resident told the News Tribune.

Fun fact from an expose on the actors’ special wants and needs: Patricia Arquette required lots of fruit and herbal tea, A-1 steak sauce on her French fries and had a Christmas tree in her room for two weeks.


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