Lights! Camera! Wilton!
Get ready for a little bit of Hollywood to hit Wilton, when a movie production begins shooting scenes at the former Wilton Baptist Church on Danbury Rd.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the movie, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, is being produced for Netflix by Ryan Murphy and horror movie producer Jason Blum (Blumhouse) and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks) for a 2022 release. It’s an adaptation of Stephen King‘s short story of the same name from his latest anthology, If It Bleeds (2020).
The movie stars Donald Sutherland (M*A*S*H, The Hunger Games, Ordinary People) and 18-year-old Jaeden Martell, who starred in King’s It movies and Knives Out, and is slated for the remake of The Lost Boys. The duo plays an odd-couple pair of friends — a young boy and a reclusive billionaire. When the older man dies and his cell phone is slipped into the casket before the funeral, the boy discovers “Can you hear me now?” goes beyond the grave.
The movie has been shooting at several Fairfield County locations, including at Westport’s Sherwood Island State Park, the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, and the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion in Norwalk.
A production contact declined to say exactly when or how many days the movie crew would be working at the site, but Wednesday afternoon, trucks with production equipment were seen outside being unloaded.
The Building’s Historic Appeal
The Wilton church’s distinctive exterior and interior may seem perfect as a setting for scenes in a story crafted by the horror-master King.
The English Tudor fieldstone and brick church had been the home of the Wilton Baptist Church for 50 years until this past summer when the congregation folded and sold the building to longtime Wilton resident William D. Earls.
Earls, an award-winning architect and trustee of the Wilton Historical Society, told GOOD Morning Wilton‘s Kathy Bonnist that, as his credentials would suggest, he is enamored with the church’s historical importance and architectural significance.
“The building is beautiful, obviously very beautiful, and an important historical landmark,” he said. “It’s imperative, I think, that it be preserved.”
Documents on the Wilton Historical Society website reveal some of the church’s history.
It wasn’t always a Baptist church. Construction of the church was completed in 1864 by the Wilton Episcopalian church, St. Matthew’s, which was formed in Wilton in 1802.
At the time, it neighbored the historic Sloan-Raymond-Fitch House, which dates back to the 1700s and is now part of the Wilton Historical Society complex.
The church is listed in the “Historic Resource Inventory — Buildings and Structures” from the Historic Preservation Office (part of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), and it’s described as “one of the finest ecclesiastical structures” in the area.
Beyond its use as a movie set, the building’s next incarnation is still somewhat of a secret, as Earls hasn’t revealed his exact plans for the property. But he has said it won’t become anything like any of the development projects introduced in Wilton this past year. “This is not that kind of project,” he emphasized.