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Hollywood stars shoot at the falls

Melissa McCarthy, the latest in a line of actresses going back to Marilyn Monroe who have been filmed against the natural wonder of Niagara Falls, learned it’s hard to compete against the cascading water’s sonorous sound.

“There’s a lot more water in the falls, and it’s louder,” McCarthy said Thursday after describing a climactic scene that had just wrapped on the observation deck at Niagara Falls State Park for the road comedy “Tammy,” alongside co-stars Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh and Mark Duplass.

“We’ll be looping everything, but it’s worth it. Everybody’s saying, ‘we don’t want to loop it, we have to fix the audio – but everyone’s like, who cares? It’s so pretty we’ll gladly go in and fix it later,” McCarthy said. Looping refers to having to later rerecord dialogue if it’s not salvageable from the production tracks.

McCarthy, a 2012 Oscar nominee for “Bridesmaids,” co-wrote the screenplay with Ben Falcone, her husband and the film’s director. The Warner Bros. film, which is primarily being shot in North Carolina and has a tentative release date of July 2014, included one more Niagara Falls scene later in the day at the Cave of the Winds.

“We’re elated when we have a production like this with A-list actors,” said John Percy, president of Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. “Millions will witness Niagara Falls on that big screen in 2014, and that is invaluable to this destination, and money we could never afford. That exposure is incredible.”

Niagara Falls residents Bob and Gloria Scalzo and their son Alec were at the falls to get a glimpse of McCarthy, and weren’t disappointed.

“It’s really exciting. You don’t get to see them filming too often down here, so it’s really cool. It gives the falls more exposure to the world, and especially the American side,” Gloria Scalzo said.

The film’s story concerns Tammy, portrayed by McCarthy, who after losing her job and finding out her husband has been unfaithful, hits the road with Pearl, her hard-drinking grandmother, played by Sarandon. Pearl has a wish to go to Niagara Falls, where her father had promised to take her but passed away before he did.

Other cast members include Dan Aykroyd, formerly of “Saturday Night Live,” and Allison Janney, who co-starred in the popular TV series “The West Wing.”

Tim Clark, who heads the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission, estimated 120 crew members, about half of them locally hired, worked on the film Thursday.

“These productions bring a lot of attention and a lot of money into the region,” Clark said. “Everything from local security and union drivers and union crew to a ton of money spent on food.”

Several of the film’s stars, including McCarthy and Sarandon, stayed at the Red Coach Inn. Others involved with the production stayed at the Seneca Niagara Casino Hotel, the Holiday Inn and the Conference Center.

Tom Watt, the park manager, took the Hollywood excitement in stride. “When I was hired, I was told this isn’t really a park, it’s an attraction. I love this job,” he said.

The scene on the Observation Deck, where the actors gathered along the railing facing the falls, was “a really sweet ending for the movie,” McCarthy said.

“We just wanted a place that seemed overwhelming, and we wanted a place that a father would want to take a daughter to, who just couldn’t believe it existed. It seems like it had to be something kind of big and amazing, and we thought this was the perfect spot for that because you really have to see it to believe it,” she said.

Working with such a star-studded cast, the actress said, was “Ridiculous ... I’ve watched eight billion movies that everyone’s kind of done. I never really thought I’d meet Susan, or Kathy. Spending a couple of months working with Susan, and all of them, has been something I’ll never forget. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

As for Niagara Falls, said McCarthy, who will be taking off with her family at the filming’s completion on a sight-seeing drive across the country, “I would come back here in a minute for anything.”