SAN JOSE (KPIX) — A spotlight is shining on one of the South Bay’s most mysterious landmarks with the production of a movie featuring an Academy Award winning actress set at the Winchester House.
Oscar, Tony and Emmy Award winner Helen Mirren stars in “Winchester Mystery House,” a historical thriller about real-life rifle heiress Sarah Winchester.
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Winchester was famously convinced she was haunted by the souls of those killed by the guns that made her family rich.
While some of the movie has already been filmed in Australia, on Friday, Mirren was shooting scenes at the actual house in San Jose.
When asked what it was like filming in the real house, Mirren said with a laugh, “Far out as we used to say in the olden days. It was fantastic.”
This week, the movie crew is shooting in one of the 160 rooms in the mansion. They recreated a larger version the house to use as a set in Australia because some of the spaces in the Winchester House were just too small for shooting.
A first look photo of Mirren from the production was recently released. It reveals a striking resemblance between the actress and the historical figure she plays.
“Yes, it’s rather frightening! And I don’t think Sarah was [frightening] actually, in the original photograph,” said Mirren. “She’s actually got a mysterious little smile; a Mona Lisa like smile on her face.”
The picture is the only known photograph of Sarah Winchester.
The heiress constantly constructed and reconstructed rooms for 38 years. At one point, there were 600 rooms in the mansion.
Some say she slept in different bedrooms so the spirits couldn’t find her. She also built stairs that lead to nowhere and a maze of secret passageways to throw off the spirits.
The third floor of the house is said to be the most active in terms of ghosts. One area in particular, called the witch’s cap, is where Winchester was believed to communicate with the dead.
She was also an innovator of her time, installing the latest technologies and appliances at the home. And used only the finest materials that money could buy.
“This house is a manifestation of Sarah Winchester, and I think in that sense it’s haunted,” said Mirren.
Shooting at the house is expected to go well into Friday night and is scheduled to wrap on Saturday. “Winchester Mystery House” is set to be released in early 2018.