Christmas in March: Mario Lopez movie filming in Long Grove brings cheer

It’s nearly April and the temperatures have crept close to 50 degrees, but thanks to the filming of a new movie, Christmas is still in full swing in Long Grove.

The holiday spirit is sparked by work underway in Long Grove’s Historic Downtown for “My Grown Up Christmas Wish,” starring longtime actor, producer and “Access Hollywood” host Mario Lopez.

The movie is the fourth Christmas flick filmed in Long Grove in recent years. The first three were produced by a filmmaker from nearby Mundelein who was already familiar with the area. This time, producers with the Great American Media company, which signed a deal with Lopez in February, chose the village after scouting locations across the country.

“When they came to Long Grove, they just said, ‘Oh my God, it’s picturesque, it’s Christmas,’” said Michael Okun, a business owner in downtown Long Grove whose Sock Monkey Museum was used for filming on Tuesday.

  Holiday evergreen wraps a light post outside The Sock Monkey Museum in downtown Long Grove Friday, where a Christmas movie is being filmed in Long Grove. John Starks/

Production began on Monday and will continue through the second week of April, with local establishments like home decor and arts shop Vintage Charm Homestead getting a chance to serve as stages and backdrops. Owner Gina Andaas described the experience as surreal and “an honor to be a part of.”

The moviemaking experience may be surreal, but there will be an uncommon degree of reality in the finished product. According to Ryan Messner, president of the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association, the fictional city where the film takes place will share its name with the real-life setting.

The opportunity for awareness and exposure is an added thrill for business owners, but the rest of the community has also gotten in on the fun. Some have even had the chance to work as extras on the film, thanks to a casting call put out on the Village of Long Grove Facebook page.

“We’ve seen customers come in, and I think they’re just as excited as we are,” Andaas said. “It’s movie magic.”

Movie magic aside, the celebrity’s presence in the area has caused quite a stir, as photos of community members with Lopez have popped up across social media. Northbrook resident Aiden Barder got a fun surprise from the star while celebrating his 14th birthday with his family in Lincolnshire.

According to Okun and Andaas, the cast and crew have brought nothing but good energy to their interactions with the community, both on and off the set.

“They were all so nice and so respectful,” Okun said. “Everything they’ve done in our town so far, from what I’ve heard, has exceeded expectations.”

Messner said that a movie like Lopez’s “helps bring a lot of buzz” to not just Long Grove, but also the surrounding areas, where productions take place less often than in Chicago. As businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the village has worked to revitalize the downtown in recent years, the film is a welcome boost.

“These types of movies that they’re doing are good for our community,” Bill Jacob, Long Grove Village President, said. “Long Grove is one of those communities that’s known for many things, and it just adds to our brand as a village.”

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