The US premiere of “Stronger,” the movie about Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, will not be held in a fancy theater in New York, Los Angeles, or even in Boston.
Instead, the much-anticipated movie starring Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal will screen first, on Sept. 12, at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, where Bauman and 31 others injured in the bombings were treated.
“It’s important for us to be in that space,” says “Stronger” director David Gordon Green.
The movie, which arrives in theaters Sept. 22, is the second big-budget Hollywood film about the events of April 15, 2013, when two bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and wounding more than 260. Bauman, who was there to greet his then-girlfriend, lost both of his legs in one of the blasts.
“Patriots Day,” which came out last winter, starred Mark Wahlberg as a Boston police officer and focused primarily on the bombings and the subsequent search for those responsible.
“Stronger,” based on Bauman’s book of the same name, is a very different sort of film. Green, whose diverse credits include the acclaimed teen drama “George Washington” and the stoner comedy “Pineapple Express,” said “Stronger” is a character piece, a discreet story set against the backdrop of a major news event.
“It’s the intimate architecture set within an epic framework,” Green said Friday. “We’re all familiar with the headlines, but this is particular to a relationship affected by the events of that day. When you get to know Jeff and Erin [Hurley, Bauman’s then-girlfriend], and his family members, there’s great drama and struggle and triumph and humor.
“For the audience, it’s very valuable to see these characters in a relatable way.”
In the interest of authenticity, Green said many of the real-life people who treated and worked with Bauman — including nurses, the surgeon, physical therapists, and the prosthetic team — play themselves in “Stronger.”
“This was a story we didn’t want to embellish with too much Hollywood glitz and glamour,” he said. “For example, when we were talking with the prosthetic technicians, they were speaking in a technical language I’m not familiar with, and it was a struggle to imagine how I could re-create that with actors.”
In addition to Gyllenhaal, who earned a best supporting actor nod for his performance in “Brokeback Mountain,” “Stronger” costars “Orphan Black” actress Tatiana Maslany as Erin and Miranda Richardson as Bauman’s mother, Patty. (Gyllenhaal, Maslany, and Green are all expected to attend the premiere.)
Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital opened its new Charlestown facility just 12 days after the Boston Marathon bombings, and 16 of the 32 blast victims who were treated there had amputations.
“We opened the doors of the new hospital just in time and we wound up seeing the most catastrophically injured people,” says David Storto, president of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. “For all the wrong reasons, this event provided an opportunity for the public at large to understand disability issues and rehab medicine, which are not commonly understood and appreciated as other medical sub specialties are.”
“Stronger” was partially filmed at Spaulding, including in the gym where the Sept 12. screening will be held. Before agreeing to host the premiere, Storto said the hospital needed to make sure that patients will be able to receive the therapy they need elsewhere at Spaulding.
“[The gym] is an inspirational space for patients to do their therapy and I think there will be nice synergy to see Jeff’s story there,” Storto said.
Green is likewise excited.
“We’ve designed what I hope will be a unique experience to show Boston what we’ve made,” the director said. “We’re taking something nontraditional and exhibiting it in a nontraditional way.”