R.I. Governor Not Amused by 'Underdog' Filming

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- They removed a historic chandelier and put down a false floor in the State House rotunda. They replaced lamps with Greco-Roman statues and constructed a false front to the Senate Chamber.

But when crews filming the Disney movie "Underdog" replaced the state flag flying over Rhode Island's Statehouse with one from a fictional city, that was the last straw for Governor Don Carcieri.

Carcieri, who ordered the fake flag removed immediately, now says he will scrutinize more closely any future plans to use the building as a television or movie set after nearly a month of disruptions by the filming of the live-action version of the 1960s cartoon.

"The governor thinks we must be careful to preserve the dignity of our historic structures, such as the ,State House," his spokesman Jeff Neal said yesterday.

"Underdog," which features Jim Belushi, has been filming in Providence for months and was shot at the State House from July 10 to last Friday. Crews were in the building preparing for the shoot for several weeks before that.

During the filming, the front entrance and rotunda were occasionally closed. And some state employees protested about the duration of the "Underdog" shoot because they had to give up parking spaces and navigate equipment that lined the State House hallways for a month.

Steven Feinberg, director of the Rhode Island Film and Television Office, said any inconveniences involved in filming "Underdog" are more than offset by the $40 million investment, 300 full-time jobs, and 3,000 spots for paid extras that it brought to the Ocean State. He said Disney hired a historic preservationist to ensure that the deconstruction and reconstruction at the Statehouse were done properly. Disney also moved its production schedule to the slow summer months when the Legislature is not in session.

Scott Levine, a publicist for the production, declined to comment on Carcieri's remarks.

"Underdog" has a fan in Stephen Tocco, chief of the Capitol Police, who handled security for the shoot. He said he enjoyed the filming more than any other event in the 25 years he has worked at the Statehouse.

"How could you not love Underdog?" Tocco said. "This is Disney. This is apple pie, this is motherhood."

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