A quick stop on 'The End of the Tour'
On a blustery day in March 2014, a tall, dirty, unkempt man had trouble figuring out how to use the coffee dispenser at Nunica EZ Mart, a Marathon-branded location. The cashier was happy to help but missed an important detail during the exchange. The ‘strange’ customer was actually actor Jason Segal (How I Met Your Mother) in costume, taking a break from the production of his new movie, The End of the Tour.
“After he left the store, we all asked the cashier, ‘You know who that was, don’t you?’” explains Vickie Ramirez, manager of Nunica EZ Mart. “When she found out she had just helped a major Hollywood star, she flipped out."
Segal was dressed as late author David Foster Wallace and was joined on set with his co-star Jessie Eisenberg (Social Network, Zombieland) who plays writer David Lipsky. The film takes place in the mid-nineties when Lipsky joined Wallace on his book tour to write a profile for Rolling Stone.
This location in sleepy Nunica, Mich., was chosen because it looked like it could be anywhere. “We liked this station for a couple of reasons,” said John A. Johnston, the production’s location manager. “This is a road trip movie where we follow these two characters driving across the Midwest. At this point in the story, the characters are in Indianapolis, but the whole production is happening in Grand Rapids [Mich.]. When you look at the environment here, there aren’t any landmarks; this could pass as anywhere in the Midwest.” Also, the station is right off the interstate and provided a convenient stop for the crew on their way between other locations.
Despite this convenience, the production still presented unique challenges for the filmmakers. “Since the movie takes place in 1996, the crew told us it was important to keep modern technology out of the shot,” said Brandon Daniels, communications manager at Marathon Petroleum Corporation. “We looked at pictures of Marathon stations at that time and quickly realized how much we’ve changed in the last 20 years. Both the price sign and the fuel dispensers are completely different – not just in how they look, but how they work.” Director James Ponsoldt had to choose creative camera angles to avoid letting the LED price sign or credit card readers at the pump slip into the shots.
Despite these challenges, the crew was very accommodating and their impact to operations was minimal. “We didn’t have to close the store,” Ramirez said. “They just took pumps 9 and 10, so the rest of our business could keep going. In fact, it worked out really well for us. This is a quiet town, so it was a big deal to have a movie filmed here. A lot of folks showed up to see the stars and bought gas while they were here, so we ended up having a very profitable day.”
The End of the Tour was released to select theaters in 2015 and is now available on home video.