A typically relaxed weekday morning in Boston’s North End turned into a fan frenzy Wednesday as filming began for Matt Damon and Casey Affleck’s upcoming movie, “The Instigators.” Crowds hoping to catch a glimpse of the stars swarmed into the neighborhood, where the 24-hour Bova’s Bakery shut its doors to accommodate the shoot for the first time in its 97-year history, sending loyal fans of its signature cannoli to competing bakeries — if only for the week.
Owner Ralph Bova told the Globe earlier this month that the bakery on Salem Street, which closed Monday until Saturday, will set the scene for a confrontation in which actors smash pastry cases full of Bova’s famous Italian desserts. On Tuesday, production crews had removed the bakery’s cases and moved in prop cases. The pastries, however, will be authentically Bova’s.
“I love that they use the real pastries because the customers that have been here are going to recognize it and they’re going to know it’s been done authentically,” said Spencer Michael Collins IV, who is from Boston and lives in Los Angeles but flew across the country hoping to meet Damon and Affleck.
He and other onlookers hoping to observe the filming lined Prince Street Wednesday morning.
“Can my dog be an extra?” a man walking his small bulldog asked a member of the production crew as he strolled by.
It’s not the first time Bova’s has made it onto the big screen. The bakery was also featured in “Fever Pitch,” starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, and in “What’s Your Number,” starring Anna Faris and Chris Evans.
Meanwhile, Damon and Affleck were spotted filming at a fire station on Cambridge street the same morning.
SPOTTED: Matt Damon and Casey Affleck filming at the firehouse on Cambridge St in Boston pic.twitter.com/k6E2lmv9OP— Jeremy Siegel (@jersiegel) March 22, 2023
Among the observers outside Bova’s was Paul Devlin, 23, who took the commuter rail from Tewksbury and rearranged his work schedule to spend the day watching production.
“I got my spot early, because I figured it’d be a big crowd,” Devlin said. He got to the North End at 8:50 a.m., grabbed a coffee, and staked out directly across from Bova’s. “I remember reading about how the owners are kind of nervous about closing for a while. ... It makes sense that they’re nervous because there’s a lot of competition between the bakeries.”
During the mid-afternoon lunch rush Tuesday, a line stretched out the door of Modern Pastry in the North End. Across the street at Mike’s Pastry, a gaggle of elementary schoolers on a field trip sat on the floor in a corner while their chaperone waited to order, chatting with other customers.
Only one of the three famous North End cannoli spots was devoid of patrons: Bova’s.
“If anybody asks me where to go in the North End, I say Bova’s,” said Matthew Gilwee, a North End resident and loyal Bova’s Bakery customer. He said the closure could be an inconvenience but there are other options.
“I wouldn’t recommend the other options — I think Bova’s is the best,” Gilwee said. “But it won’t be the end of the world.”
Although Bova did tell the Globe he was nervous about the bakery closure, supporters felt the publicity from the movie will ultimately be good for business.
“Whenever you make something not accessible to people, it makes them want to go even more,” Collins said. “Everybody’s going to want to come here now.”
He also speculated the production company is probably paying the bakery well for the trouble.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if, when we come back, they get a few upgrades,” Collins said.
Production trucks were the only vehicles rumbling through adjacent streets Wednesday — road closure signs on Salem and Prince streets diverted cars down narrow alleyways.
A Mike’s Pastry employee told the Globe Tuesday the production vehicles for the movie were occupying parking spots, but North End resident Kay McCarthy, who also planned to wait hours outside Bova’s to watch the shoot, said the timing of the road closure minimized disruption.
“Prince Street is very popular, but I think the hours are perfect,” McCarthy said. “A lot of people are at work and at night it’s crazy busy here.”
McCarthy agreed that the movie shoot would be financially beneficial for Bova’s.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see some new curtains,” she said.
Correction, March 22, 2023: Due to an editing error, and earlier version of this story misstated the name of Matt Damon and Casey Affleck’s movie. It is called “The Instigators.” The Globe regrets the error.
Sonel Cutler can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @cutler_sonel.