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Sharon Stone filming movie in Petaluma

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Petaluma got a taste of Hollywood this past week as Sharon Stone and a cast and crew of more than 100 came to the city to film a movie produced by Petaluma native Ali Afshar.

The month-long shoot, in Petaluma and other Sonoma County locations, is Afshar’s third production here in the past year. Much of the film’s $3 million budget is expected to be injected into the local economy as the crew stays and eats in town.

The 50 extras and a lot of the 65-person crew are hired locally, including Heidi Marks, who has a horse ranch off Corona Road. A tall, thin blond, Marks was hired as the stand-in for Stone.

On Friday, during the filming at the Petaluma Municipal Airport, Marks walked through the scene while director Alex Ranarivelo made sure the camera and equipment was in the right place.

“My daughter does this kind of work, and she got me into it,” Marks said. “The beauty of it is everyone is really cool.”

The film, called “Running Wild,” is about the plight of wild horses during the drought across the western U.S. Afshar, a Casa Grande High School graduate, said that the rugged beauty of southern Sonoma County provides the perfect backdrop for the film.

“It fits the storyline with the visuals,” he said. “Also, I have a ton of resources here. It’s easy for me to shoot here. The people are friendly.”

Afshar, who founded ESX Productions, shot “The Wizard,” and “The Wrong Side of Right” in Petaluma. Other scenes for “Running Wild” will be shot in Petaluma neighborhoods, a ranch in Tomales, Glen Ellen and Santa Rosa. Afshar said his knowledge of the local area is a big boost to the production.

“I know everyone here, which helps,” he said. He pointed to the hills just east of the airport, where he grew up on a ranch. “That is my little sliver of Petaluma,” he said.

The movie is backed by Forrest Lucas, a cattle rancher and the founder of Lucas Oil. Lucas said the Petaluma area reminds him of the Missouri ranch where he has 5,000 head of cattle.

“I love it up here,” he said. “Beautiful place. Lot of cattle. People are nice.”

Dozens of films have been shot in Petaluma over the years, including scenes from another movie starring Stone, “Basic Instinct.” Other films set in Petaluma include “American Graffiti” and “Peggy Sue got Married.”

In the scene filmed Friday at the Petaluma Airport, Stone’s character, a billionaire animal rights activist, is arriving at a yet-unnamed western U.S. town in her private jet. After walking through the scene a few times with stand-ins, Stone arrived for a quick rehearsal with co-star Dorian Brown before filming began. Stone was not available for an interview.

The entire airport scene will probably take one minute of screen time, said Brett Hedlund, the editor. Hedlund, who worked on other movies shot in Petaluma, said the best part about shooting in town was the abundance of good food, including the cheese burgers at McNear’s.

“I’m always worried about gaining 10 pounds when I come up here,” he said.

Ranarivelo, the director, who is staying at a rented house in Penngrove, said he likes breakfast at Hallie’s Diner and dinner at Central Market.