CINCINNATI — Director Steven C. Miller was so impressed by Cincinnati that he not only rewrote where his film “Marauders” takes place, he is coming back in August to shoot a second movie.
“We’re going to be making something cool, and I am excited about it," Miller said during a phone interview from his home in California.
The 35-year-old director stopped short of saying who will star in the movie but said that his studio would announce more details soon.
Miller was more willing, though, to discuss "Marauders," which he shot in Cincinnati last year with actors Bruce Willis, Chris Meloni, Dave Bautista, Johnathon Schaech, Adrian Grenier and Northern Kentucky native Alysha Ochse. The film opens locally at the Esquire Theatre in Clifton and digitally on-demand Friday.
Miller said when he initially signed up to direct the heist film, its production company had already decided to shoot in Cincinnati because of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Incentive. The state rebate incentive program adopted in 2009 often makes it cheaper for major motion pictures to film in Ohio compared to other states.
The movie's original script had Greater Cincinnati slated to stand in for the rural outskirts of Chicago, with a "cookie-cutter" string of suburban banks being robbed, Miller said.
That changed when the director came to the Queen City to scout locations before primary shooting began.
“The second I got off the plane and saw Cincinnati’s skyline it was immediately apparent to me that it had to be set in the city,” Miller said. “When I walked into Dixie Terminal, it was something I had not seen before. It felt like a gigantic film set that an entire movie could be shot in.”
Miller also toured the bank vault in the basement of the Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel and the old brewery tunnels in Over-the-Rhine during that trip.
“I was really inspired by the brewery tunnels,” Miller said.
He said he was so inspired that he persuaded producers to give him a week to rewrite the "Marauders" script to change the film's setting from the outskirts of Chicago to Cincinnati. Miller said he even wrote in a plot point to include the tunnels in the film.
The director said when he began his grueling 16-day shoot in Cincinnati in October, he found himself wowed again, this time by the local crew and acting talent hired as part of the tax incentive program.
“My crew from Cincy was so on point,” Miller said. “I can only go as fast as my crew goes. It was just amazing to me how fast they were. I was so stunned. They were just really good.”
Miller also praised the extras hired for smaller roles and the people who gathered around outdoor Downtown shoots.
“It was really fun to see all the people show up at the bank heist,” he said. “We loved to make it rain for the movie, and people on the streets were happily taking these umbrellas to stay dry. For me that was a constant, that the participation was really cool, and I just love that.”
The region offered Miller, cast and out-of-town crew members a little levity as well. Meloni regularly entertained himself -- and fans -- by posting pictures on social media of the yellow penguins at the 21c Museum Hotel.
— Chris Meloni (@Chris_Meloni) October 6, 2015
Grenier raved about Over-the-Rhine when he hosted a wrap party for the movie at Japp’s Since 1879. And Ochse, a Notre Dame Academy graduate, was able to spend time with family and friends.
Ochse's performance earned kudos from Miller, who called it “fantastic."
"I think her scenes were some of the best," said the director, who attended the “Marauders” premiere in Hollywood on Monday. "People were literally floored.”
Miller said one of his favorite things to do in between shoots was to visit as many hole-in-the-wall eateries, such as the Anchor Grill in Covington, as possible.
“It was sort of a thing for us to find different places,” he said. "Where can we find the real Cincinnati or Kentucky food? That was something we had a blast doing.”
Miller said he even enjoyed Skyline Chili -- though “my wife would say, 'Hell no'” to the dish.
Perhaps he can bring her with him to Cincinnati in August and persuade her to give it a try.