Oakmont resident Kassandra Stotler held her sons, Glenn and Billy, as the stood outside St. Thomas Episcopal Church.
They were watching folks not normally seen in town. Crews moved cars, trucks, cameras and equipment up and down Delaware Avenue and Fourth Street.
The place of worship just a few blocks up from the business district became the site of a Hollywood funeral March 24.
Portions of nearby roads were closed that day for filming of the Tom Hanks movie “A Man Called Otto.”
The movie is the English-language adaptation of a 2015 Swedish comedy based on the best-selling 2012 novel by Fredrik Backman. Hanks plays the role of a “cranky retired man (who) strikes up an unlikely friendship with his boisterous new neighbors,” according to IMdb.com.
Crews had set things up a couple days prior.
The winner of multiple Academy Awards was not on set. That did not lessen the excitement of the young onlookers.
“I’m excited,” said Billy, 5. “I really want to watch that movie.”
Glenn, 7, said it was fun to watch people in action.
“I got to learn about the machine that holds the camera, and there’s a guy who says, ‘cut’ and ‘break,’” Glenn said. “I would just run around (the set).”
One of the crew members gave donuts to the children.
Workers at the scene declined to comment on the filming.
Oakmont Bakery owner Marc Serrao said production teams visited his shop. He would not confirm if any actors stopped by.
“We are making some baked goods which should appear in the movie,” Serrao said. “The hospitality company has been purchasing baked goods for the crews. We have talked to some folks from California who have been stopping in the bakery for food. It’s very exciting and we’re hoping to see some famous faces around town before filming is finished in Oakmont.”
There was fake snow outside the church. A guy was seen repeatedly spraying the church sign and other areas with water between takes.
“It’s amazing to see all the infrastructure necessary to make a few minutes of film,” Stotler said. “They’ve been running wires and cables and working and it’s just astounding how much work goes into what might be only a few minutes (on screen).
“Everyone knows what they’re doing. Everything’s professional. Everything’s neat. Everything’s tidy. It’s very interesting. It’s exciting to think about something different happening (in the borough). I’m glad it’s only once in a while.”
Resident Mary Boscia said she was not surprised the church was selected to be on screen.
“It’s great for the community to be highlighted this way, and it’s wonderful to see a church that’s this gorgeous,” Boscia said. “I’ve never been inside the church, so I can’t comment on that. It’s quite stunning from the outside.
“I was wondering how it happened. There must be a location scout or something who was looking for a particular type of church in a particular type of town. Oakmont’s a really nice neighborhood feel to it. It has little shops down there and a lot of variety in the houses. It’s not like being in a housing plan. It dates back to the 1800s. You’ve got a little bit of the new, a little bit of the old.”
Resident Sharon Delp attempted to get her pet, a British golden retriever, into the movie.
“I have a dog called Otto,” Delp said. “I was walking him here earlier and I went to the crew and said, ‘Do you need a dog named Otto?’ They went, ‘Wow. Don’t call us. We’ll call you.’”
The parish was granted its charter in 1874. However, the church was not built until 1906.
The Rev. Jeff Murph has been with St. Thomas the past 27 years.
He said he was prohibited from discussing compensation the church received for its use.
The daycare/preschool was closed the day of filming. The church was open and had Mass.
“It was a very positive experience for us,” Murph said. “It was kind of a distraction, but it was great. The people we worked with were uniformly very friendly and gracious and accommodating. They were all kind.”
He said there must have been about 100 people including cast and crew at the church.
“I think it did attract the attention of people,” Murph said. “I could see there were a lot of people who walked across on the sidewalk. It’s not something that is seen on a daily basis in a town like this. I was glad we were chosen. I think it was good for the town and certainly our church. It’s a historic landmark in Oakmont and part of the history and legacy of this community.”
Other filming locations in March included Ambridge, where Hanks took a break from the action to wave to a resident and her son. The Hollywood icon also took photos with a wedding party outside the Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel.
This was not the first time Hollywood came to Oakmont.
The former 11th Street home of council President Lindsay Osterhout was used for scenes in Fox’s “The Fault in Our Stars” back in 2013.
“How often does a movie film crew knock on your door?” Osterhout said. “I love Pittsburgh getting filming stuff going on in here, and I think that the film office here in Pittsburgh is wonderful. I’m always excited when I hear filming going on, especially in Oakmont because we’re such a beautiful community.”
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Scene from movie ‘A Man Called Otto’ filmed at Oakmont church, sans a man called Tom Hanks