Adriana Trigiani, herself a Big Stone Gap native, penned the best-selling novel and directed the movie. In an interview with Jeff Wilson at the Phoenix Film Festival, Trigiani described the project as a labor of love.
“The reason it took so long to get this film made is because I insisted it be made there, because I believe that films are living art forms,” said Trigiani.
I went to see the film the day it opened nationwide. I arrived fairly early and was surprised to see the theater packed with people, most of whom appeared to be in their 60s. Some, I thought, were probably even older. And, based on the frequent ooh-ings and ah-ings I heard (typically in response to the vivid and sweeping landscapes that figured prominently throughout the film), you could tell the audience was enamored with the movie. The rural imagery was, at times, breath-taking.
Set in 1978, Big Stone Gap is a tale of family secrets and the journey one women undertakes to find her true self. That woman is Ave Maria Mulligan (played by Ashley Judd) – the owner of the local pharmacy and the town’s favorite “old maid.” Patrick Wilson, who, like Trigiani also hails from Big Stone Gap, plays Jack the coal miner and Whoopi Goldberg portrays Fleeta, Mulligan’s employee and confidante.
The most important character though may have been the town itself – where Trigiani and her siblings were raised. Coincidentally, Trigiani’s sister – Pia Trigiani – is the co-chair of the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative steering committee.
In an effort to ensure the film would be made in the town that bears its name, the state set aside more than $1MM in incentives for the project. The production company received a $600,000 grant from the Governor’s Motion Picture Opportunity Fund and a $500,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission.
Virginia Film Office Director Andy Edmunds estimates the economic impact from the making of Big Stone Gap to be in excess of $4.5 million. Future revenues tied to the expected influx of tourists have not yet been calculated.
Big Stone Gap is expected to be available on DVD in early February 2016.
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