There’s a television mystery at Esquimalt’s English Inn

 

A historic Esquimalt boutique hotel will star in a movie that could lead to several more on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries network.

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The English Inn will be featured as Duquette’s, a five-star restaurant, when the cameras roll on The Gourmet Detective, based on Peter King’s mystery novels, said production manager Allen Lewis.

Actor Dylan Neal, who co-stars with Andie MacDowell in Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove, is an executive producer and will star in the new movie franchise he’s co-writing with his wife, Becky Southwell. Neal plays the culinary whiz of the title who uses his knowledge of food, wine and cooking to solve crimes in the world of fine dining.

Brooke Burns, Neal’s co-star in the film charting the Sherlock Holmesian sleuth’s attempts to solve a murder at the upscale restaurant, has also filmed in Victoria before. The model-turned-actress (Baywatch, Shallow Hal) was last here in 2006 to play a trophy wife in the thriller Murder On Spec.

“Hopefully, we’ll do up to nine of these,” said Lewis, vice-president of production for Vancouver-based Front Street Pictures. “Each is a stand-alone movie, but with recurring characters.”

Ideally, a new The Gourmet Detective movie in the series produced by Muse Entertainment Enterprises — one of three franchises in Hallmark’s new Mystery Wheel series of original films — would shoot here every two months, Lewis said.

The start of filming on Dec. 1 comes just a few weeks after production partner Front Street Pictures wrapped its last Hallmark project here, the Jaclyn Smith romance Bridal Wave.

While Lewis said it helps that Victoria is as “food-centric” as the series itself, it was the region’s accommodating attitude, locations and economic benefits that triggered the shoot.

“We needed to find film-friendly locations we could come back to,” said Lewis.

“The [English Inn] geography works really well, with the huge kitchen tying in with the dining room.”

It won’t be the first time Lewis has used the Esquimalt landmark. It was also featured in Lies Between Friends, the 2010 thriller starring Gabrielle Anwar.

The capital region will masquerade as San Francisco for The Gourmet Detective, with second unit photography shot in the City by the Bay.

“Victoria works so perfectly with its brickwork and seaside — looks we can’t get in Vancouver,” he said. “What’s beautiful is the locations are 15 minutes away from each other.”

Other potential locations in the film being directed by Scott Smith (Cedar Cove, Call Me Fitz) include office space in the Times Colonist building, doubling as a police station; St. Anne’s Academy, for a chess tournament sequence; and The Parkside Hotel and Spa, for a book-signing scene.

Locals interested in opportunities as background performers should email Sara Brown at gourmetextras@gmail.com. Be sure to include basic information and a clear photo of yourself.

In addition to hiring food stylists to ensure culinary authenticity, cast and crews will be treated to fine cuisine themselves during the intensive, 15-day shoot.

“You could see the irony if we were doing a movie about great food and not having our crew eat incredible food,” said Lewis, who is bringing in Chad Dibble’s Location Caterers.

“These guys are such incredible chefs the crews take food home at night,” he said, referring to the legendary Wise brothers, Gordie and Jeremy.

Lewis said he hopes ongoing production of such a series will prove sustainable, adding the company didn’t even close its production office after shooting Bridal Wave.

“We were able to keep all those people employed and roll the crew over,” said Lewis, admitting he has his own reasons for encouraging longer-term location shooting here.

“It’s so lovely to be home,” says Lewis, who routinely commutes from the Lower Mainland to the home in Metchosin he shares with his wife, Adele, and teenage daughters, Katie and Elizabeth.

“Now I can go home and take my dog for a walk.”

mreid@timescolonist.com

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