The Last Stand
She had front row seats to the filming of “The Last Stand,” and with its upcoming release days away, Claudine Montano plans on watching the modern-day western on the big screen.
“The first showing, I’m going to be there,” said Montano, the owner of the Becker Street Pub.
The movie, starring former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, opens in movie theaters Friday.
For three months, the filming of the movie transformed Belen’s Becker Avenue from First Street to Fifth Street into the fictitious border town of Sommerton Junction.
During filming, empty parking lots and abandoned, boarded-up buildings were turned into storefronts with products displayed in windows.
In the film, an escaped convict making his way to the Mexican border faces off with Sheriff Ray Owens, played by Schwarzenegger, who stands between the convict and his freedom.
The lights and cameras have been packed away for more than a year, but the locals who participated in and watched the filming of the movie were left with a lifetime of memories.
A laminated collage of pictures with Montano and the film’s stunt men hangs along the wall behind the bar of the pub. Montano said she took pictures with the men, who frequented her bar for lunch, and even got their autographs.
“It was really amazing to watch them when they were shooting at (the stunt men),” she said. “All of a sudden they were bleeding, because they have those packets on them that when they get hit it looks like they’re bleeding.”
During one take, Montano jumped away from the street facing window at the 206 Becker Ave. pub where she viewed the filming. A driver had lost control of a school bus, whose tire had blown out, and the bus began to fall in the bar’s direction.
“It got caught on the curb and that’s what stopped it from coming in,” Montano said.
The Belen Police Department, tasked with securing the movie set and keeping onlookers away, mingled with actors during filming breaks.
The officers, including Lt. Robert Miller, ate lunch with the film’s main villain, Peter Stormare, who was cracking jokes, Miller said.
Actress Jaimie Alexander, who plays Officer Sarah Torrance, asked officers for police-related pointers to give her character a more realistic feel.
Belen officers were also invited to Schwarzenegger’s trailer, where he thanked them for their service, answered questions and signed autographs. Miller described Schwarzenegger as down to earth and mellow.
“I had my Arnold bodybuilding book that he signed and he would talk about those days,” Miller said.
Patrolman Joseph Chavez introduced himself to actor Johnny Knoxville, who played Lewis Dinkum, as he walked down the street to his dressing room.
“We briefly spoke with him and told him that one of the captains from the fire department was a big fan of his, so he arranged for us to go back there with him and he was very willing to take pictures with us,” Chavez said.
Richard and Cindy Long, co-owners of Belen Goju Ryu Karate, watched as stunt men jumped from the roof of the old Central Hotel, on north Second Street and Becker Avenue, to a nearby rooftop and toppled onto a school bus.
“A crane lifted the men up onto the roof before they jumped,” Cindy said. “They were strapped into harnesses so they wouldn’t get hurt.”
The Longs and their karate classes would stand outside of their 101 Becker Ave. building, transformed into a Cross Country Livestock Feed store, cheering and clapping for the actors.
Cindy toured the movie sets with her karate classes to show them “movie magic,” she said. They peered into window displays full of merchandise and observed as the erect buildings were wooden shells anchored onto giant metal containers.
“I wanted them to see that they were a part of history,” Cindy said.
The Belen Fire Department, which remained on standby during live fires on the set, were invited to eat lunch on set. While eating, firefighters met a number of actors, including Schwarzenegger, Knoxville and Luis Guzman.
Belen Fire Chief Manny Garcia said it was interesting to watch parts of the film being recorded.
“When they’re filming it, it doesn’t look like much,” Garcia said. “It looks interesting to see how they make it in comparison to how the movie comes out and what it actually looks like in the film.”
Belen High School varsity football players and cheerleaders were even recruited as extras in the movie. In their shot, Belen football players, dressed in maroon and white jerseys, and cheerleaders in uniform clapped or cheered as they ran to two school buses headed to a game.
This scene was shot as part of the background behind Schwarzenegger as he stepped out of his truck, and waved to the students and community members cheering on the football team, said football player William Krause.
“I wasn’t nervous, but I didn’t want to trip,” Krause said.
During filming, football player Andrew Castillo lost his shoe after someone had stepped on the back of it while he was running.
“We heard, ‘Cut! Someone lost a shoe,’” Castillo said laughing. “I had just kept running.”
Cheerleader Kaitlyn Lopez said while she was excited to be an extra in the film, she would be equally as thrilled to see just her ponytail bobbing across the street in the finished film.
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