Stars at Monmouth Park: This time they’re not horses


OCEANPORT — It’s not every day that Hollywood celebrities come to one’s hometown.

On Aug. 18, movie and TV star Jennifer Aniston, best known as Rachel in the television show “Friends,” and Gerard Butler, who played the Phantom in the 2004 film version of “The Phantom of the Opera” and Gerry Kennedy in “P.S. I Love You” opposite Hilary Swank, traveled to Monmouth Park racetrack in Oceanport by helicopter to film scenes for the Columbia Pictures comedy “Bounty Hunter,” which is expected to be released in 2010.

Along with the movie stars, 600 extras also were on hand to film the scenes.

John Heims, director of media relations for the racetrack, said he was contacted by the movie crew several months ago.

“They wanted to shoot a racetrack scene,” he said. “They came out to scout the place and they liked it. It’s not unusual for us to get a call, since there are limited places to shoot scenes at a racetrack. They wanted to simulate a real race.”

Heims added that Monmouth Park offers a backdrop that attracts crowds throughout the racing season. The track’s signature event is the Haskell Invitational, which brings approximately 40,000 people into the borough.

Heims said he had several meetings with movie personnel on the logistics of the project, and the crew set up on Monday, Aug. 17. They were on the scene at 5:30 a.m. and were filming scenes from approximately 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 18.

“The crew was all out by 10 p.m.,” he said. “It was a long day, and they shot handfuls of shots. We had no problems with paparazzi and that sort. We had a strict policy in place for our employees on taking pictures.”

Heims helped the movie crew pick out a lineup of 24 horses and 12 jockeys: Pedro Cotto, Jacklyn Davis, James Loges, Navin Mangalee, Francisco Maysonett, Pablo Morale, Felix Ortiz, Luis Rivera Jr., Steve Sousonis, Morland Suckie, Tommy Turner and Jose Valez.

The racetrack has been featured in episodes of the TV shows “Law & Order,” “Ed” and “The Sopranos” and in the 1984 film “The Pope of Greenwich Village.”

Heims said that when things like this happen, “It is great for the state’s economy, especially when the state needs it the most.”