The skies were a bit cloudy and the wind a little chilly, but that didn’t stop hundreds of people from lining Wabasha Street in downtown Saint Paul to give a warm reception to some big Hollywood movie stars.
The stars were in Saint Paul for the screening of "A Prairie Home Companion" which was shot last fall at the Fitzgerald Theater.
Lily Tomlin, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Virginia Madsen, Garrison Keillor, Linsday Lohan and director Robert Altman were among the cast members who attended the gala event at the Fitz.
The stars climbed into open horse-drawn carriages for the short ride from the Saint Paul Hotel to the theater, where hundreds of people were waiting, cameras in hand, for a glimpse of their favorite stars.
Most of the actors said they were impressed with the number of people who turned out to see them arrive. Tomlin was frustrated with the way the wind was messing with her hair. Streep said she was having a ball and hoped to make another movie in Minnesota.
Inside the theater, Altman introduced the film, saying: "This is our show, It's so incestuous now that nobody is going to understand this movie and no one knows what it's about -- and that's good."
Earlier in the day, Keillor, who plays a radio-show announcer in the movie, recalled the filming as "a great deal of fun" and low-key.
"I don't expect to have that much fun anytime soon. I'm hoping there might be one more time, but I don't know when it will be," Keillor deadpanned at a news conference that included Streep, Lohan and Altman as well as Virginia Madsen, Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly and Lily Tomlin.
For a comic movie, Altman, 81, said "A Prairie Home Companion" has a serious theme -- and he hinted at what the movie is really all about.
"This film is about death. Everybody dies," said Altman, a five-time Best Director nominee who received an honorary Academy Award in March.
Set on the last night of the radio show before the station's new corporate owners shut it down, "A Prairie Home Companion" features Madsen as a white trenchcoat-wearing Angel of Death, whom Keillor described as a "beautiful, ethereal character."
Keillor said he guessed Madsen represented death because her character died while listening to him tell what he said is the funniest joke he ever told on the radio -- a joke that no one gets.
While Keillor's Lake Wobegon is not mentioned by name in the movie, Keillor said he hopes Altman makes a film about his fictional hometown. He noted that Lohan does not die in the movie, so she could be in the sequel.
In an interview, Keillor praised Lohan's acting. The 19-year-old plays the moody daughter of Streep's character and spends her time writing poems about suicide before taking the stage with a show-stopping version of the song "Frankie and Johnny."
"Lindsay wanted to be in the movie. We lobbied to be in the movie before there was even a part for her. And she turned out to be just a terrific pro. She was there, she was on time, she knew her marks, and she knew her lines. She's a very classic actress. She's very well trained in the Disney factory," Keillor told The Associated Press.
Lohan called the movie, which opens nationwide June 9, "something nice to come into. Definitely a wonderful experience to work amongst other amazing actors."
Cast members recalled the taste of "Minnesota Nice" they got during filming.
"No one beeps their horn here. You can be sitting at a red light, it can turn green three times and the person behind you will not beep their horn at you," said Reilly, who performs in the movie with Woody Harrelson as the singing cowboys Dusty and Lefty.
Streep, who is paired with Tomlin as the singing Johnson sisters, said she had the best pizza she's ever had when she was in St. Paul.
"And I'm from New Jersey and live in New York," Streep said. But she could not remember the name of the restaurant.
KARE 11 and KARE11.com had the event covered — and we're inviting folks take part in some citizen journalism. Grab your digital camera or camera equipped cell phone and snap shots of the stars. Mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll put together a slide show of the shots.
The movie opens to the general public on June 9.
For more information about the film, the stars and to see interviews and reporter pieces, visit the many links in the box above.
(Copyright 2006 by KARE and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)