There are a few sure-fire signs that summer has given way to fall in south Louisiana.
Our annual bout of hurricane hysteria has passed the midway point (but, alas, still without a Hurricane Morgus).
And movie productions begin flocking back to the region, with some big names in tow, to take advantage of the mild weather and the state tax breaks.
During the next few months, a parade of A-listers including Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Taraji P. Henson are expected in the state to work on a busy slate of fall films in and around New Orleans. Others might be on the way.
Among the first in line to arrive this year is Henson, who shot "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" in New Orleans in late 2006 and early 2007, a role that earned her a supporting-actress Oscar nomination, and "Hurricane Season" shortly after. This time, she'll star in the independent sports drama "From the Rough," inspired by the real-life story of Catana Starks, the first female head coach of an NCAA Division I men's golf team.
Ving Rhames and Henry Simmons will co-star in director Pierre Bagley's film, scheduled to begin production Friday.
Right behind them will be Efron, set to start production Oct. 11 on the Nicholas Sparks drama "The Lucky One." Directed by Scott Hicks, it's an adaptation of Sparks' novel about a Marine who, after a stint in the Iraq war, begins searching for the unknown woman he believes was his good-luck charm during his deployment.
About the same time, Mickey Rourke and Jeffrey Dean-Morgan are slated to show up for director Hany Abu-Assad's dark action film "The Courier," about an underworld bagman tasked with delivering a mysterious briefcase to an impossible-to-track-down crime boss.
Next will come McConaughey and Hirsh to work on the black comedy "Killer Joe" with "Exorcist" director William Friedkin, who also shot "Bug" here just before Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "Killer Joe" is based on Pulitzer-winner Tracy Letts' play about brothers who hire a cop/hit man named Joe to rub out their evil, overinsured mother. Principal photography starts Nov. 8, and cameras will roll right up to the Christmas holidays.
Once the new year arrives, Willis and Gordon-Levitt are scheduled to show up with director Rian Johnson for the sci-fi action film "Looper," about a crime organization that uses time travel to commit the perfect crimes. On Friday, Johnson confirmed via his Twitter feed that Emily Blunt would be joining the cast as well.
"Emily Blunt joins 'Looper.' Confirmed," Johnson wrote. "And very, very excited."Produced by Ram Bergman, who scouted for the film while he was in town last year shooting the Nicolas Cage thriller "Hungry Rabbit Jumps," it cranks up in late January and shoots through the end of March.
Baton Rouge gets in on the action starting Oct. 14 when Liam Neeson and Rihanna begin shooting director Peter Berg's big-budget, board-game inspired "Battleship" for Universal Pictures. The capital is also where Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are expected to start filming the next two "Twilight" films back to back starting Nov. 1.
Meantime, several smaller indies pepper New Orleans' cool-weather calendar, such as Jean-Claude Van Damme's "Weapon," as well as continued work on TV productions including Disney's homegrown kids' series "Imagination Movers," HBO's "Treme," TNT's quirky police procedural "Memphis Blues" and a potential short shoot by the Fox series "House."
And that's not even counting the rumors swirling around that have names like Miley Cyrus and Christopher Nolan cropping up. (For the record, different projects. Very, very different projects.)