Chuck Hogan takes ‘Town’ by storm

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~Canton native penned novel that inspired Ben Affleck’s hit movie ‘The Town’~


Chuck Hogan has been to Fenway Park plenty of times before, but last Tuesday’s trip to Boston’s beloved ballpark was different. With the Red Sox on the road, the Canton native came not as a spectator — this time the spotlight was on him.

Canton author Chuck Hogan with wife Charlotte

Chuck Hogan is pictured with his wife, Charlotte, at the Boston premiere of "The Town." (Photo by Globe Staff/Essdras M. Suarez/Courtesy of the Boston Globe)

Fenway played host to the Boston premiere of “The Town,” the Ben Affleck-produced film based on Hogan’s 2004 award-winning novel “Prince of Thieves.” The climactic sequence of both “Prince of Thieves” and “The Town” takes place at Fenway, but Hogan admits that having the movie premiere at the ballpark never crossed his mind.

“I can dream with the best of them, but that never occurred to me. It was fantastic,” Hogan, a 1985 graduate of Canton High, said.

Hogan first saw “The Town,” which stars Affleck, as well as Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, and Chris Cooper, among others, in a screening room in midtown Manhattan this past June. He described the experience as “surreal.” After seeing it, Hogan said he spent the better part of the next three hours walking around the city, trying to “pick up the pieces” of his brain, as he puts it.

“I thought I’d feel a lot more distance, be able to sit back, be analytical — knowing in general what’s coming and in some cases knowing exactly what word is coming next,” he explained. “But, in fact, especially with those scenes that really made the transition almost directly from the book to the screen, I couldn’t have been more involved; I was really tense and strangely emotional in a sense.”

Hogan and his wife Charlotte [nee Bright], also a Canton native, visited the set of the movie for a morning last fall when it was filming in Boston, but overall he took a hands-off approach during the production of the movie.  While he initially was not concerned with how the movie would turn out, seeing it changed his perspective.

“I realized if I didn’t like it, if it had been bad, it really would have crushed me,” Hogan said. “I feel like [“Prince of Thieves”] is a good story and to squander it would be awful, so I felt so good seeing it. I realized how bad I could feel if I hadn’t liked it, so I was just doubly grateful.”

“The Town,” which is set in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, focuses on a gang of four bank robbers. It has been well received — Entertainment Weekly called the movie a “satisfying” and “flavorful” crime drama — and it opened up with a first place showing at the box office last weekend.

“I don’t feel like [the critical acclaim] bounces back at me necessarily,” said the ever-humble Hogan. “That’s really all for the movie, and well deserved.”

When Affleck is involved in a production, it is bound to draw oodles of media attention. But Hogan said he was not expecting that some of this attention would trickle down his way. Two weeks ago, he attended the movie’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, where he found himself sitting at a long table for a couple of press conferences, part of a panel consisting of the cast of “The Town.” Affleck was placed in the middle, with Hogan flanked at one end of the table, beside Cooper.

“It was easy because I was up there with the cast, so I knew I was getting, at best, one question, and all I had to do was not fumble that one,” he joked. “It’s sort of like being the right fielder — you get maybe one play, two plays a game — just don’t drop it and then you can go out and have a beer afterwards.”

The Fenway premiere followed the premiere in Toronto. Hogan said that those in attendance emerged from the Sox dugout to walk the red carpet, which essentially ran from the Sox dugout, to behind home plate, to the visitor’s dugout along the third base line. Hogan and his wife stopped to pose for pictures in front of a banner for the movie.

The Green Monster served as the backdrop for the red carpet festivities, which drew other Hollywood stars like Matt Damon. The screen was set up over the visitor’s dugout, and those in attendance sat in the stands along the third base line to watch the film. It was a night Hogan was happy to share with his wife, and one he would have liked to have shared with his father, Charlie Hogan, who passed away in June.

“He was a huge fan of movies, especially Boston-based movies [and was] obviously a huge fan of mine and a big, big Red Sox fan. This would have been his ultimate movie,” Hogan said.

This past weekend Hogan saw the film again at cinemas in Dedham and Foxboro with some friends and family who could not attend the premiere.  However, his four children, ages 10, 8, 6 and almost 3, won’t be seeing this rated R movie anytime soon, although Hogan says they enjoy watching the trailer and “can’t wait to grow up” and see it.

“If I can get [Affleck] to turn all my books into movies, I’ll be all set,” he joked. “I’ve already made out like a bandit in terms of this movie being as good as it is (pun intended).”

Hogan was in New York on Tuesday to start an abbreviated press tour for “The Fall,” the second book of a vampire trilogy that he is co-writing with noted film director Guillermo Del Toro (of “Pans Labyrinth” fame). The two will work together to finish the final book due out in 2011.

“Prince of Thieves” will also be repackaged as “The Town,” giving Hogan’s novel a second shelf life. And he wrote a screenplay for his novel “Devils in Exile,” which came out last February, so perhaps there will be a second film based on a Hogan book on the horizon. Not bad for someone who spent more than five years in the early 90s working at a video rental store in Boston, waiting for his big break.

But even with all the success, including seven published novels and the recent release of “The Town,” Hogan remains grounded. “I’ve been treating this [experience with “The Town”] as a once-in-a-lifetime thing, because it may well be that,” he said.

“I think if you got into doing what I do for these kind of moments, you’d be crazy because it’s luck that the movie was great, that it came to this, had the big premiere — there’s no way to plan for it. So, no, it doesn’t get to me at all.”

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