‘I Wanted to Be a Movie Star’
Movie Location Manager
Carol Flaisher watched a man jump out of a Georgetown Park window. He landed on the Dean & DeLuca plaza, pushed a cop off a horse, and rode down M Street.
Everything had gone according to plan.
‘Arnold Schwarzenegger was filming a scene for True Lies, and it was a knockout. All of Georgetown was involved in that one.’
At 72, Carol is one of the city’s most prolific movie location managers, bringing Hollywood to her native DC for decades.
Forty years prior, her story couldn’t have been scripted any better—then, a Rockville housewife with two young children and no experience in the movie industry. Yearning for more, she began volunteering at The Kennedy Center in the late 70s.
‘I met so many movie stars, I was starstruck. I was bitten. You become addicted, and I knew that world was made for me.’
Carol started a small company with a friend, and spent several years working on live television specials for The Kennedy Center and Ford’s Theater. By the mid-80s, her business morphed into the movies.
‘I started out doing craft service and props and casting—you name it, we did it. There was a need in the city and I would do anything to fill that need. Tell me what you want, and I’ll do it. I learned literally from the ground up.’
The timing was ideal. As Carol’s new career took off, Hollywood was finally venturing beyond the studio to shoot on location—1976’s All the President’s Men recently filmed in DC. In a city with more rules and regulations than most, a knowledgeable movie scout was suddenly a hot commodity.
‘My job is to say you can do this, you can’t do that. It’s different now because I’m a known entity and I’ve been around so long, but in the beginning, the producer, director and designer would call, and they’d send me a script and say, ‘What do you think?’ Those three people determine what ultimately is going to be filmed in Washington. If you’re going to make a movie here, you really need someone who knows the ins and outs of this town. It’s trickier than most.’
Carol was eager to pull off the near impossible, but also knew what was off limits. No dialogue scenes in the chamber of the Lincoln Memorial. No filming inside the Korean War, World War II, and Vietnam War Memorials. And—of course—no White House.
As more movies came to DC, the city’s most recognizable neighborhood was in high demand. In 1990, Carol scored her first big Georgetown film, The Exorcist III.
‘That was a big deal. We were, needless to say, all over Georgetown—from The Tombs, on out. Everybody loves Georgetown, and Hollywood wants it. Aside from the monuments, it’s the Eiffel Tower. You see a French film, you know you’re going to see the Eiffel Tower.’
More than 100 films later, Carol says pulling off last summer’s Wonder Woman shoot in Georgetown ranks high in a career full of ‘oh my God moments’.
After receiving a phone call from production months before the shoot, Carol had a quiet meeting with the city to gauge their interest. If she couldn’t get 100 percent buy-in and support, she wouldn’t agree to work on the film.
‘I told the Mayor’s office, if we can get Jack Evans all in, then I will tell Warner Brothers I’m willing to put my neck out. Jack was all in, as was everyone, and they were all fabulous. We took care of the people, and the organizations and merchants were behind it..’
One of the first on set every morning, and the last to leave, Carol was part of a six- to 12-person team during filming of the blockbuster sequel, set in the 80s. The Georgetown theater sign featured prominently, the C&O Canal was used as the backdrop for a pivotal stunt, and the classic punk boutique Commander Salamander was brought back to life in a vacant building on Wisconsin Avenue.
It was a surprisingly full-circle experience.
‘On the very first scout with the director, we were talking about what is still here from the mid-80s, and I said Commander Salamander was such a big deal—we should do it as sort of an insider’s joke. We eventually found a location for our pretend store, and made a deal with the owner of that building.
‘After we made the deal, myself and two assistants walked out of that building and there was a little shop next door, and I said, ‘Come on girls, we deserve to shop. Let’s go buy a treat.’ I walk in and look at this darling woman and she looks at me, and I said, ‘We know each other.’ It was Wendy Ezrailson, who owned the original Commander Salamander. I started screaming. She didn’t even know that we had rented the building next door. It was overwhelming. We have a Wonder Woman scene in there, and it’s just too good to be true.’
It all seems too good to be true for someone attracted to the glitz and glam of Hollywood from a young age. Carol’s mother loved the movies, often encouraging her to hurry up and finish her homework so they could catch the 5’clock showing. Secretly, she always wanted to be a movie star.
‘I can tell you I have no talent for acting, but I sure like being around it, and I love watching it. I remember being on the set of The Recruit outside of Union Station with Colin Ferrell, who was really cute and friendly, and has a thick Irish accent. He was rehearsing his part as an American, but the crew was throwing him questions, and he went in and out of that accent. How do they even do it? When it comes to the actors, I’m still in awe of that talent.’
Scores of them later, Carol says Morgan Freeman is one of the friendliest, loveliest actors she’s met. After 40 years in the business, she isn’t easily intimated, but still gets starstruck on occasion.
‘Who would knock my socks off today? My personality isn’t one of the shy wallflower type, but I met Anthony Hopkins and I could hardly speak to him. And Meryl Streep. The first big movie I worked on was Silkwood, which she starred in. She stays in character on set, and I stood next to her at craft service eating a bagel, and my heart was jumping out of my throat. I think if I had the chance to sit and talk with her, that would do me in.’
Star power aside, Carol says she’s still amazed by the moviemaking process—from first reading the script, to watching the equipment roll in, being on set for months at a time, and finally seeing the movie on the big screen.
‘I still get excited. I love the DC, and I love the challenge of making a movie here. At this point, they ask me to do things that are so ridiculous. For Wonder Woman, I knew it was going to be big, but I didn’t know it was going to be that big. I’ve never seen stuff like that in terms of what was required to do the stunts. More than once I said, ‘They’re going to throw us out of Georgetown, we can’t do this.’ And do you know, we did.’