BATAVIA – The Old Genesee County Courthouse is expected to take on a new role in early June as a setting for “Marshall,” a feature film about the early career of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Members of the County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday approved a request by Michael Nickodem, location manager of Marshall Movie Inc., to use the downtown courthouse at Routes 5 and 63. The committee’s recommendation goes to the full County Legislature for final approval.
“Marshall” is being financed by China-based Super Hero Films Ltd., with Paula Wagner, of the “Mission: Impossible” film series, producing it under her Chestnut Ridge Productions banner. It is expected to premiere by Dec. 31.
Nickodem, who is based in Buffalo, said the look of the former county courthouse in Batavia – which is formerly called the Old County Courthouse and serves as the legislature’s meeting room – “spoke to us” as his company searched for local venues.
“The scenes in Batavia will be about a case (Marshall) defended in 1940 (in Oklahoma), and we were looking for something architecturally more rural,” Nickodem said. “When I saw a picture of your courthouse, it was amazing. It spoke to us.”
The movie crew will make cosmetic changes to the courthouse, which is across from the new County Court Facility, next to County Building I and located between a couple of restaurants.
“We will take some speakers down, and cover or take off some emergency lighting (fixtures),” Nickodem said, adding that one scene will take place on the steps leading to the courthouse and the other will be shot in the courtroom.
The scenes from the Oklahoma trial are “a very small piece of this story” – about 3 to 5 minutes of a case Marshall defended while traveling across the country for the NAACP.
He said the movie will be a “historic film and a quality drama, with no car chases and no superheroes.”
Nickodem said that filming at the courthouse will likely last only a day and use the services of about 80 crew members and 50 others. He said he didn’t know whether casting directors would seek “locals” as extras.
The film focuses on a pivotal case – a 1941 rape trial that placed a Greenwich, Conn., socialite and a black chauffeur against each other in a Bridgeport courtroom – during Marshall’s time as a civil rights lawyer, many years before his appointment in 1967 as the first African-American on the nation’s highest court.
Marshall served on the Supreme Court until October 1991 and died on Jan. 24, 1993, at age 84.
Reginald Hudlin is the director and Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in the HBO film “42,” is the star of the movie. Michael Koskoff, a lawyer from Westport, Conn., wrote the screenplay about the case.
In other action, the committee:
• Recommended that the full Legislature schedule a public hearing for May 25 to amend a section of the county tax law in support of the City of Batavia’s recently enacted tax incentives to home owners who renovate vacant and abandoned single-family homes and reside in those homes. If enacted, the law would permit home owners to receive sliding scale tax exemptions up to 25 years on the increase in assessment derived from the redevelopment of the property. The Batavia City School District, the county’s third taxing jurisdiction, approved a similar resolution at its April meeting.
• Recommended reappointment of Laurie Miller of Alexander to the Genesee Community College board of trustees for a seven-year term and the appointment of Dr. William J. Lapple, of Le Roy, to the Genesee Funding Corp. board.