Long Beach taking a stab at France in new Matt Damon/Christian Bale film

As a feature-film actor, Long Beach is in the same league as your Meryl Streeps, your Al Pacinos, your Laurence Oliviers. It’s the City of a Thousand Faces.

While it’s often typecast as Miami or other Floridian cities (“Dexter,” “CSI: Miami”), Long Beach has stretched its skills to play the roles of such international cities as Shanghai (“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”), Beijing (“Red Corner”), Calcutta (“BASEketball”), and even the Central American country of Val Verde, a fictional location frequently used by film writer and producer Steven E. de Souza when his works demand a South- or Central-American location that will not prompt legal or diplomatic problems (“Commando”).

Now Long Beach is getting its makeup done in preparation for its star turn as a beach in France for a summer of 2019 likely blockbuster film “Ford vs. Ferrari,” starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale.

The $100-milion film is looking at a few locations in Long Beach, but crews are already at work this week on a 10-day build of a set at Alamitos Bay’s famous “Horney Corner” at 54th Place.

The crews are basically rebuilding Alfredo’s Beach Club to look more or less the way the restaurant/snack bar used to look before the the city made its owner, the late Fred (Alfredo) Khammar, tear down its palm-thatched roof and otherwise tragically clean up the once-funky beach hangout that has stood there for decades, back to the 1960s and 70s when it was Woody’s Goodys.

Now, with carpenters and other crafts workers, it’s looking like its old self again, except we’re to believe it’s in France.

The film, about Henry Ford II’s ambitious plan to build a car from scratch that could compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race against perennial winner Ferrari, is filming entirely in California thanks to $17 million in tax credits from the California Film Commission, which has been fighting off Canada and such states as Georgia and Mississippi that have been swiping feature films from California in recent years. Various locations throughout the state will be featured in “Ford vs. Ferrari,” taking on roles as Florida, Michigan and England.

Damon will star as car-builder Carroll Shelby; Bale plays the part of Shelby’s British driver Ken Miles.

Tax credits have also been given in recent months to keep such projects as the long-awaited “Deadwood” movie, a reboot of “Scarface,” director Jordan Peele’s untitled follow-up to “Get Out,” and “Coming 2 America,” a sequel to the Eddie Murphy film “Coming to America.”

Elsewhere in Long Beach, a new ABC TV series, “Grand Hotel” (based on the Spanish-language series “Gran Hotel”) crews and talent have filmed around town, including sequences at the Rose Towers on Third Street (the same location that was used in “La La Land”) and Blair Field, and the Bravo production of “Dirty John,” based on the L.A. Times series and podcast, continues to visit locations on the Peninsula and Naples and other spots around town.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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