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Wednesday, June 19, 2024


‘The Times They Are A-Changin’

Jesse Lambert/Coffee Tyme
Sections of Cape May were transformed to represent the Newport, Rhode Island, Folk & Jazz Festival in 1965 for a new feature film about Bob Dylan.

By Karen Knight

Cape May City is back to the present after a trip to 1965 for Dylan biopic

CAPE MAY – It’s a wrap on the city’s transformation into Newport, Rhode Island, for scenes depicting the 1965 Newport Folk & Jazz Festival in the Bob Dylan biopic “A Complete Unknown.”

Broadside Productions filmed a number of scenes around the area May 13-17 for the new feature film, which stars Timothée Chalamet as legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan; Elle Fanning as a character inspired by Dylan’s former girlfriend, artist Suze Rotolo; Edward Norton; Benedict Cumberbatch and Nick Offerman.

Shooting for the Dylan biopic in Cape May City wrapped up on May 17. Photo Credit: Jesse Lambert/Coffee Tyme

“A Complete Unknown” does not yet have a release date, although Cape May City Mayor Zack Mullock said he was told “by the end of the year.”

“There’s been a real buzz around town this week,” Mullock said about the filming. “I think people were a bit more nervous initially because they didn’t know what to expect. We ended up successfully, and I think people were so excited about the filming. I know I gained a new appreciation for what it takes to film a movie, all the takes, and all the details that are involved.”

The 1965 festival was the first time Dylan played an electric guitar onstage, angering some fans over his switch from acoustic folk to rock-and-roll. That festival was also the first time he performed “Like a Rolling Stone” live, the song from which the movie gets its title.

Mullock said the city and production company had been working on filming arrangements for over a year, and in thinking about the discussions, the filming during the week and the impact on the community, he said he thought “it was worth it for Cape May.”

“Things really were excellent,” the mayor said. “It was fun to watch the actors. Even 9 to 10 p.m. Tuesday night, there were 200 people watching the nighttime filming.”

During the transformation of Cape May City for the film the Victorian Motel was renamed Viking, and old cars lined an adjacent parking area. Photo Credit: Jesse Lambert/Coffee Tyme

As the city was transformed to 1965, lines of old cars could be seen along the streets. Buildings were renamed, and locals were hired as extras for crowd scenes.

“There seemed to be something for everyone,” the mayor said. “The old cars that were used were not the cream-puff Corvettes you can see at a car show, but the average cars you don’t see every day. They were typical cars you would see in 1965.

“There were those who wanted to see the actors, holding signs on the Mall welcoming them. You had something for just about everyone to see.”

Mullock said in retrospect that he would not publish the entire filming schedule at once, because he thought it looked worse than what the actual daily schedule was like.

“If you broke it down day by day, the filming affected a couple blocks, mostly at the one end of the Mall,” he said. “However, when you saw the entire week’s schedule, you thought there would be big delays and traffic jams affecting a lot of streets.

“There may have been some minor backups, but overall it was a successful week. The free jitney that ran May 11 to 12 made it easier to get around for riders, as well.”

Jesse Lambert, right, owner of Coffee Tyme, met one of his favorite actors, Edward Norton, during the filming. Photo Credit: Coffee Tyme

Local shop owner Jesse Lambert said he thought the film brought more people to the city, especially for this time of year.

“It was pretty neat to meet the crew,” Lambert, owner of Coffee Tyme, said. “It was amazing to see how hard they worked and all the attention to details. You could tell the crew and actors were tired during some of the nighttime shots, but they were very kind and very down-to-earth.”

Lambert met one of his favorite actors, Norton, who came into the coffee shop and ordered a vanilla chai with three shots of espresso. “That was one of the days they were shooting at night,” he said. “He also came in on Thursday (May 16) and got a pumpkin chai with three shots of espresso.”

Norton plays Pete Seeger in the film, who was an early backer of Dylan and invited him to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival.

“It was really busy just before and just after Ed was here, but it was quiet while he had his drink,” Lambert said. “He and I were just able to sit and talk about growing up here; he talked about growing up in Baltimore, and we talked about surfing. He loves it, and I’m a surfer, so we pulled up an app that showed how surfing was in the area. He was hoping to get some in during the downtime.”

For Kevin Kane, a 58-year-old from Villas, the chance to be an extra in the film gave him an up-close look at how a film is made.

“It’s interesting and it’s fun, but at the same time, it can be boring as you are sitting around waiting,” Kane said. He played one of the agent managers at a party before the festival.

“We would do a scene, and then have to repeat it a number of times before they yelled that it was good,” he said. “After the 14th time of walking down the street, how can you do it differently?

Locals were hired as extras for the filming of “A Complete Unknown.” Photo Credit: Jesse Lambert/Coffee Tyme

“It was a loose role, as we managers sat at the hotel and had fake drinks and smoked clover cigarettes for the film. Everyone smoked back then, if you recall.”

Kane, who works at the Cape May Ferry and North Beach gym, said he worked 12 hours on Monday (May 13) and then the following night.

“The night shoot was pretty exhausting,” he said. “I did see Ed Norton, Timothée and Elle, but didn’t get a chance to talk with any of them because we were all working. They were very casual and seemed down-to-earth. But we were all doing our jobs.

“The casting was fun, as they took us up to Jersey City to get fitted for our costumes. Behind the scenes, the hair and makeup and assistants were really incredibly nice to us. I knew they were working really hard, but they realized we were, too, and thanked us. I really appreciated that. And the food they served us was really great!”

Mullock said he is hopeful that he can arrange a special viewing of the movie in Cape May when it is released.

He said that despite the rainy, overcast weather during the week, it was a “good time to be in Cape May. All the rain has everything green, the flowers are blooming, the colors all look beautiful. It may not have been perfect weather, but it was a great way to kick off the season.”

Contact the reporter, Karen Knight, at


Karen Knight is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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