Is Tom Cruise perhaps the most fan-friendly celebrity… EVER?! That’s what the residents of small town Ball Ground, GA, or as some have called it: “The Hollywood of Cherokee County!”
Tom Cruise’s new movie, Mena, started filming on May 20th and will continue to film around Georgia for a few months. The movie is about the life of Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who became a drug smuggler in the 1980s and who was later recruited on by the DEA to offer intelligence. The movie is set to be released in early 2017.
The exteriors of Main Street downtown Ball Ground have been temporarily transformed into Mena, Arkansas. Cruise most likely picked this location for its visual similarity!
The residents of Ball Ground have definitely been enjoying having Tom & the crew in town. Many have agreed that it is the perfect way to kick off the summer! Fan pictures and stories can be read on this Facebook group.
Below are experiences from Ball Ground, GA residents:
“A big thank you to Tom Cruise and crew for bringing a bit of excitement and glamour to our little neck of the woods. My boys met Tom on Friday and were thrilled. He was gracious, friendly, and really seemed to take the time to greet his fans who waited out in the hot sun just to catch a glimpse of the star. He signed an elderly woman’s cane on her birthday and a baby’s cast. He transformed our town into a stage set and made it fun to want to drive through each day just to see what was happening. I would like to think that Tom Cruise enjoyed his stay here too. Maybe he got a little break from “Hollywood chaos.” Maybe he got a bit of a relief from paparazzi constantly intruding in his every move? (I’d like to think a few of us with our iPhones weren’t as bothersome for him as what he’s probably used too). Anyway, I hope that he found a chance to sneak off somewhere with a fishing pole and enjoy a peaceful, anonymous moment in our beautiful town of Ball Ground. Can’t wait to see the movie! See you at the screening party!” – Melissa Schaly
Susan Lumpkin’s son, Zach, worked on set with Cruise as a construction worker extra. “He worked very hard and was noticed by Tom and the director, Doug Liman. It was very hot outside. Tom came over to check on my son to see if he was okay between takes. Liman even helped my son move props around since they saw he was sweating and working so hard. He even called him by his last name to encourage him: “Lumpkin! Don’t let those blocks beat you!”
“The movie crew did a wonderful job turning Ball Ground into Mena, AR. It was done quickly and professionally. Also, everyone involved with the production was very nice and accommodating. It has been a wonderful experience for my family and our town.” – Daniel Sisson
“Ball Ground is what people would typically call a ‘sleepy town’. There are very few choices downtown to dine and shop, so you seldom see many people walking around. A city of about 1,500 households; not enough by marketing standards to make it worth bringing in a main-chain grocery store, which the town needs and wants desperately. The filming of Mena has brought this little town to life. People came out every day to watch the filming and to try to get a glimpse or a pic of Tom. Rain or shine, the crowds would gather. We would speak to one another and again realize that it is a small town and as such, we all know someone who knows someone in the community! We came across people we already knew and didn’t know lived here! And met so many people from out of town! It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to meet your community neighbors and to experience the transformation into Mena, Arkansas. The town now looks really good, alive, full of banks, but with more stores and a grocery store! It’d be great if we could keep everything open and functioning! This is what lies in the future of our ‘sleepy town’. And it’s been really exciting to see how movies are made. A lot less glamorous than we thought, with long, repetitive days, but so many details and so many people involved! Mena brought Ball Ground out to play. It brought us together. I hope that in the future we can come downtown and remember what it looked like when all the stores were “open” and run into people we recently met and talk about our individual experiences. I hope we get more opportunities like Mena, to come alive and excited about our little town. I hope the newly found notoriety brings in investors so we can open all the currently closed commercial spaces. And I hope now people won’t go: “You live where? Where is that?” – Alessandra Elliott