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First 2 movies to film at Wynn Las Vegas open Friday

17 April 2015

By Christopher Lawrence
It’s a classic case of bad news, joyous news.

The bad: Despite taking place at Wynn Las Vegas, filming at Wynn Las Vegas and receiving $4.2 million in tax credits from the state for doing so, no one involved with “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” would talk about the movie for this column.

The joyous: As a result, I didn’t have to watch “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.”

Sweet Mary on a motorbike, just sitting through the trailers — with scenes of Kevin James’ Segway-riding security guard fighting an exotic bird, punching an elderly maid and crashing a performance of “Le Reve” — was soul crushing enough.

It turns out, though, I couldn’t have seen it even if I were sadistic enough to have wanted to. In an extremely rare move usually reserved for only the most epic of cinematic disasters, the studio didn’t hold a single press screening. Not even the old “we’ll show it to ’em Thursday night when it’s too late to hurt us” screening.

Thankfully, writer-director Terry Jastrow wasn’t shy about talking up “The Squeeze.” Like “Blart,” the golf caper was filmed at Wynn Las Vegas. And, like “Blart,” it opens Friday, albeit on just 12 screens nationally, including Town Square.

Jastrow and his wife, actress Anne Archer, were having dinner at Wynn Las Vegas years ago with Wynn executive Chris Flatt and her husband, local golfer Keith Flatt.

“We said, ‘Well, tell us a little bit about your early life.’ And he told us this story,” Jastrow recalls of the tale involving gangsters, hustlers and a million-dollar golf bet. “We were, like, ‘What the hell? That’s a movie!’ ”

The fictional stand-in for Flatt — now president of Par 4 Golf Management, which operates several local courses, including Spanish Trail — is Augie Baccas (Jeremy Sumpter), a young, small-town golfer whose skills attract the attention of a road-tripping gambler (Christopher McDonald).

“People call me The Riverboat,” the gambler says by way of introduction, which is the sort of thing you might have expected to have heard from one of Phil Hartman’s characters on “The Simpsons.”

Before long, Riverboat has Augie playing in a series of increasingly high-stakes matches that eventually lead to Las Vegas and a million-dollar bet with a mobster named Jimmy Diamonds (Michael Nouri).

“If you’re going to play a game, you want it on sort of the most magnificent playing field possible,” Jastrow says of the climactic match, which was filmed on the Wynn Las Vegas links. “It couldn’t be a better canvas on which to paint a story.”

Jastrow knows a little something about making golf look good. He directed coverage of 62 major golf championships during his years with ABC Sports. So for his feature directing debut, he knew he wanted to return to Wynn Las Vegas, where he staged The Ultimate Game, with its then-record $2 million purse, in 2007.

So for six days in October 2013, Jastrow and his crew filmed on the last four holes in the morning until the first group of golfers approached, then shot on the early holes once the last players of the day had cleared them.

In granting permission for “The Squeeze” to be the first movie shot on the hotel’s property, Jastrow says Wynn had only a few conditions, which mostly meant having the movie’s seedier scenes take place elsewhere.

“Basically,” Jastrow says, “it came down to treating Wynn Las Vegas with the dignity and respect that it deserves.”

“Dignity” and “respect” being two words you won’t find anywhere near that “Blart” sequel.

Reality roundup: “Time Traveling with Brian Unger” (10:30 p.m. Monday, Travel Channel) takes viewers back to the ’40s and ’50s for a look at two local divorce ranches. And the Neon Museum is featured on this week’s episode of “Mysteries at the Museum” (9 p.m. Friday, Travel Channel).

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