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Article posted: 1/7/2013 5:12 AM

Libertyville company combines classic cars and movies


While very few of us are destined to become the next Hollywood star, it is quite possible that your four-wheeled creation may one day cruise across the silver screen.

The transition from rolling to your favorite burger joint to parking on a major motion picture set may seem intimidating. Yet that's where the Midwest Picture Car Group, or MWPCG, comes in. The Libertyville-based company was started in 2009 by three area friends who realized they all shared a common bond; a love of movies and cars.

One of the owners, Roger Halvorsen, got his foray into vehicles and motion pictures more than two decades ago.

"In 1987, my Model A car club was approached by the film company producing the 'Untouchables.' They wanted period vehicles like my 1930 Ford Model A Tudor," the Mundelein resident said. "I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and even got to do a set walk-on with Sean Connery."

Halvorsen took advantage of several other opportunities to have his vintage vehicle driven on location for films shot in Chicago and surrounding communities, like "Road to Perdition" and "Public Enemies." For Michael Mann's 2009 gangster flick starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, he was even given the position of assistant picture car coordinator. Working on "Public Enemies" is also where he met business partners Brad Buell of Libertyville and Ed Hovorka of Mundelein.

"We realized every time a production company needed something, we didn't have to keep reinventing the wheel and doing tons of legwork finding owners," Halvorsen said. "We started networking and compiling an online database."

Since then, the trio has accumulated more than 700 listings of collector, military, vintage and modern cars, trucks, motorcycles and other odd machines -- like vintage lawn mowers and even a submarine. They have provided vehicles for television shows such as "Boss," "Chicago Fire" and "The Playboy Club;" commercials for Chevrolet, Adidas and Ford; and photo shoots for publications like Gentleman's Quarterly.

Their feature film credits include "Superman: Man of Steel," "No God No Master" and the Bollywood feature "Dhoom 3." For now, the group is focused on Midwest productions but is looking to expand nationally.

"When a production company is looking for something particular, they can peruse our website until they find something they're interested in," said Halvorsen, a semiretired veterinarian who owned Rand Road Animal Hospital in Palatine for 30 years.

If a producer or client finds what they want, MWPCG (midwestpicturecars.net) contacts the car owner and helps explain the filming process.

"Every production is different with days being anywhere from four hours to 14," Halvorsen said. "It also makes a difference if a vehicle is a 'background' or 'feature' car."

Background cars are merely that, vehicles used to fill in an area or street to set the mood of a given time period. A typical day rate could be $150 to $250. Feature cars play a much more prominent role and can be driven by main characters. "If a car is picked for this, it can bring anywhere from $500 to $1,000 (per day) and up."

So what types of cars are movie directors looking for? "It can be anything," Halvorsen says. "The vehicle doesn't have to be a pristine, number's matching show car. Sometimes it's the beat-up clunkers that interest them most."

Halvorsen said it's possible that not only the ride, but also the owner who could be on camera for their big debut. "Owners who come are often used as drivers. If it's a period piece, they'll even get sent to wardrobe and makeup to fit the part."

It's not all work and no play. All three men and their spouses have been invited to attend several red carpet premieres, including director Mann's private after-party where they had the chance to rub elbows with the "Public Enemies" stars.

Acting classes are one way to break into the movies, but your first staring role may be as simple as polishing up your favorite four-wheeled classic and getting it ready for a close-up.

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