A waft of silver screen glamour blew into Toledo yesterday courtesy of, no, not TomKat, but an independent action film that is using the venerable S.S. Willis B. Boyer as a backdrop.
The film, called Richard Heat, is a familiar concoction of guns, drugs, and hit men, and was written, produced, and directed by Richard Manigault, who also stars as the eponymous hero.
Mr. Manigault who in regular life owns an adult foster home in Wyandotte, Mich., has produced a number of short films, but this is his first feature-length movie.
"It's definitely a labor of love," he says of the movie, which has taken more than 3 1/2 years to film and cost him and his family more than $1 million.
The film had been shot in and around Detroit.
"In a lot of Hollywood films, you see the same backgrounds in [Los Angeles] time after time, so it's nice to use somewhere different like Detroit," said Jeffry Stetson, a co-star who's from East Lansing.
Belle Isle and other Detroit landmarks are featured in the film.
And so does Toledo's own S.S. Boyer - the 617 foot retired lake freighter that lies alongside international park, open to the public as a museum.
The Boyer's part is a small but crucial one. It makes its debut at the start of the movie when gangsters use the ship to smuggle drugs into the city.
When those drugs are captured by no-nonsense cop Richard Heat, villains Donnelli and Giavionno take out a contract on Heat's life. Shootouts, face-offs, and, of course, the obligatory romance, follow.
But you can't keep a good man, or indeed ship, down, and the Boyer resurfaces as the location of the final showdown when Heat confronts the none-too-bright villains who try to use the ship to move their stash again.
If the plot holds few surprises, there were plenty in store for Kim Danes, the Boyer executive director who was on board during the four hours of filming yesterday.
Mrs. Danes was halfway through a telephone conversation when Mr. Manigault as Heat "swung a gun into my office and scared the living daylights out of me," she said.
Mrs. Danes said she had offered the ship to Mr. Manigault for free, but for her troubles the museum received a donation and will get a credit in the movie.
For visitors, though, the experience was more pleasant. "They all came up to me and asked 'can we be extras in the movie? Can we watch?'●" Mrs. Danes said.
The rest of Toledo will be able to see the Boyer on screens soon. The independent film world is a tough business but Mr. Manigault is currently in discussions with several movie distributors and hopes the film will be released by the end of the year.
"Without question, I am going to make sure it appears here," Mr. Manigault said, evincing a certainty that Richard Heat himself might envy.
Contact Jeremy Lemer