Nearly 15 years after its April 2000 release, Chicago native Bonnie Hunt’s big-screen directorial debut “Return to Me” is out in high-definition Blu-ray format Tuesday, Jan. 27. DVD extras include audio commentary by Hunt and her co-writer Don Lake, a “What If I Loved You” music video and one deleted scene
“We started scouting early on, and a lot of the writing [Bonnie] had done was based on places she knew from the neighborhood,” recalls location manager James McAllister, whose Chicago-centric credits also include “Divergent” (marquee star: Shailene Woodley), “Public Enemies” (Johnny Depp), “The Weather Man” (Nicolas Cage), “Batman Begins” (Christian Bale), the two “Barbershop” films (Ice Cube) and “Road to Perdition” (Tom Hanks).
“The courtyard that we used for the back of the restaurant was a courtyard that [Bonnie] had walked by and always loved,” McAllister adds. “So she wrote [the location] with that in mind, and we kind of reverse engineered it. The art department had to figure out a way to use that and make it work with Twin Anchors, because we put a façade across Eugenie [to make] it look as if it’s in a middle of the block as opposed to on a corner so it was believable to have a courtyard behind it.”
A local native himself, McAllister says “Return to Me” (his first Chicago film as location boss) ranks among his top shoots of all-time — largely due to the convivial atmosphere on Hunt’s set.
“For every film, you put together a team of people. And it’s challenging and difficult, but it becomes almost like a summer camp. You spend so much time together that it’s like family. And sometimes you have dysfunctional families, sometimes you [don’t]. In this particular case, everyone was just a real pleasure to work with and a lot of that had to do with Bonnie herself and the producer, Doc [C.O.] Erickson.”
Eight years later, McAllister was back in Old Town after suggesting Twin Anchors for a scene in the Batman sequel “The Dark Knight.” It took only one day to film, but the marks left by actor Aaron Eckhart (who plays Gotham City district attorney Harvey Dent/the villain “Two-Face”) after his character repeatedly slammed a shot glass down on the bar are there to stay.