SHREVEPORT, La. — It's an unexpected side effect of Hurricane Katrina — a booming movie industry in, of all places, Shreveport.
Hollywood types have transformed this once-quiet river town into "Hollywood South," filming big-budget movies like Kevin Costner's "The Guardian," building elaborate sets and sound stages, and pouring millions into the economy.
"It's been good for us," says Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower. "It's certainly been great for our ego."
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Louisiana's legislature thought offering lucrative tax incentives would draw moviemakers to New Orleans. And before Katrina, they did.
Queen Latifah's "Last Holiday" was one of the last films to wrap there. But the hurricane forced producers to find new locations. They soon discovered Shreveport. Just 350 miles to the north, it could be "Any City, USA."
"You've got beautiful old homes, a great location. You can double a lot of other cities," says Richard Salvatore, producer of “Homeland Security,” a movie filming in Shreveport starring Tom Hanks, Antonio Banderas and Meg Ryan.
The result: Almost $300 million in film production in Shreveport this year, and at least a dozen more movies filming here next year.
It's not just producers who like it in this town. Hollywood stars have been pretty happy here, too, because for some reason the paparazzi just can't seem to find Shreveport on a map.
That allows actors like Banderas and Ryan to enjoy Southern hospitality.
"You can't go in this place, like Barnes & Noble, without someone saying to you, 'Miss Ryan, you're not leaving this room without that bread pudding,'" she says.
The locals are trying to take it all in stride.
"I was the talk of the town, ha ha," says Jada Durden, a Shreveport resident. But it's hard not to be a little starstruck. "We see normal, everyday people all the time, but to see a celebrity up close and personal, that's like a big thing," Durden says.
A big thing in a small city that's suddenly a star.
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