Hespelerwood and Franco Fever

jaes franco (Andreas)
Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Let’s call it “Franco Fever,” and it’s hit a community where residents feel next to nothing exciting ever happens. Yes, James Franco himself came to the tri-city area to film his newest project — a Stephen King mini series called “11/22/63” this past month.

Locals were thrilled to see production crews transform downtown Hespeler into an urban 1950’s set.

Of the three cities in the tri-city area, which includes Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, Cambridge is arguably the least lively or exciting. Simply put, there just isn’t much going on, but it seems this trend is beginning to change in recent years as Cambridge has become a hot spot for filmmakers.

In 2011, portions of “Silent Hill” were filmed in downtown Galt. In 2013, the Canadian show “Bitten” was partly filmed in Hespeler, as was the Netflix exclusive show “Between” following shortly after.

There are a few key factors that drew producers and film crews to the tri-city area.  Firstly, Canada offers cheaper filming permits and given that most businesses in Hespeler don’t generate much revenue, renting out the space in Cambridge is cheap for filmmakers.

Additionally, the low population of the community allows for easy crowd control and less craziness. Lastly, the old-town aesthetic is exactly what the producers envisioned for their film. The street size is unusually wide for Canada, which made it passable as an American street from the ‘50s.

The locals have coined the area “Hespelerwood.”

Let’s face it, it’s not often a big name celebrity comes to Cambridge. Franco plays the lead role as a teacher who manages to travel back in time in an attempt to stop the Kennedy assassination, but becomes attached to the era.

If you’re a fan of King’s novels, you can expect brilliant plot twists and interesting themes. The intriguing story mixed with top-tier acting will make for a must-watch show. Predictably, residents of Hespeler will have a profound attachment to the show.

As filming went on, locals stood close by watching the movie magic unfold, even hoping to catch a glimpse of the star. Franco waved an occasional “hello,” as frantic girls screamed, “I love you Franco,” and others yelled out “Just Poo it” in the classiest way possible. To the excitement of the fans, Franco approached the crowds various times to satisfy their “selfie” needs.

With increasing exposure for the tri-city area, more film productions are expected to set up show in the area, which will create more opportunities for those who live there. “Hesplerwood” appears to be a win-win for all.

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