Broom Maker To The Stars
HARRY POTTER, PIRATES OF CARIBBEAN, OTHERS
COME CALLING ON GRANTS PASS ARTISAN
Hollywood is sweeping up Warren Olney's brooms.
Olney, whose Grants Pass workshop is in the confines of his dining room, has been making brooms of all sorts but especially historically correct American brooms for a dozen years.
But last year, he received a call from a company looking for a very special broom a copy of the Nimbus 2000, Harry Potter's personal choice for riding to play the wizardly game of Quiddich. (Pictured above)
The folks at Clean Fun in Los Angeles had been charged by Warner Brothers with finding someone to make some Nimbuses to be given to the Harry Potter film's VIPs as an unusual token of appreciation.
They found Olney's Web site and his phone number.
"These are now hanging in somebody's trophy room," says Olney as he holds one of the finished Nimbus brooms that the marketing company sent.
"Who knows who they were who got them, I don't know."
The company added engraving on the wooden handle and the all-important gold "Nimbus 2000" sticker.
"Best I know, the movie broom the Nimbus 2000 was a manipulated plaster model of a broom which they put into a computer and then manipulated to look like it was flying."
They sent Olney a photo of the model and "a drawing that looked a lot different," he says.
After some negotiation on the details and some samples sent back and forth, they reached agreement on the long-straw broom with a wooden riding handle and leather-lace finish tying the straw to the handle.
He had a local furniture company, In the Woods, build the handles.
Before long, he was packing up 25 of the brooms for Hollywood.
No sooner had he waved goodbye to the UPS man than he got a call from Disney Studios.
They told him they were making a movie called "Pirates of the Caribbean".
They were looking for an authentic 1800s broom for a scene where an old woman sweeps up.
Olney and his father, Bud Olney, who taught him the business, started doing research.
They found that palmettos were used as brooms in Florida and points south but the set designers didn't like that idea.
So they settled on some good old American-style 1800s straw brooms instead.
"We made six or eight they were different styles so they could pick."
That done, Olney settled back into his usual business putting brooms on the fine handles made by blacksmiths from around the country, and making brooms for everything from actual work to fireside decor.
But Hollywood called again.
Warner Brothers, which made the "Harry Potter" movies, was working on a period movie about an American who goes to Japan.
Japanese brooms? Why not. More research. More samples.
Another shipment sent just before Christmas.
"Then just the other day I just got off the phone with them there's a studio in Santa Fe that's putting out a horse opera."
This set decorator, though, wanted to order out of the catalog for his movie, tentatively titled "The Missing", and starring Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchette.
But wait, there's one more brush with fame though not of the Hollywood sort.
If you pick up a copy of the Martha Stewart Weddings magazine on stands right now, you'll find one of Olney's brooms featured in a story about the Southern tradition of "jumping the broom" at weddings.
In this case, the broom is dolled up in lace and finery.
Olney hasn't rubbed shoulders with Martha or Tommy Lee or Johnny Depp or even Harry Potter.
But doing this much work for Hollywood is giving him mixed feelings.
On the one hand, there's a sense of pride in having connections with these famous films.
"It hasn't been a lot of money, but it's been a lot of fun," he says.
On the other hand, he's not really looking for more work.
He's supposed to be a retired U.S. Forest Service worker taking it easy, after all.
At one point he considered taking a tiny ad in Sunset magazine, but rethought it.
"What would happen if someone came along and said, 'I want 10,000 of them?' You'd pass out!"
The new Hollywood connection may have the same effect.
Still, he's contemplating the licensing and legalities required to make the Nimbus 2000 for Harry Potter collectors and add it to his catalog.
Now that would be a clean sweep.
ABOUT THE MOVIES
HARRY'S RIDE: The third movie in the series, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", isn't scheduled for release until 2004.
The first movie, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is available on video now, while the second film, "Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets", pictured above, is scheduled for video and DVD release on April 11.
The fifth book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", is scheduled for release on June 21.
SAMURAI SWEEP: "The Last Samurai", starring Tom Cruise as a gun salesman who lands in Japan in the 1870s, is scheduled for release in December.
It's filming now in Japan and New Zealand.
Look for Olney's bamboo handled brooms on a trader's cart.
SWEEPING THE DECK: "Pirates of the Caribbean" is a live-action Walt Disney movie starring Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush as vying captains.
Filming which took place in the Grenadines and Southern California is mostly complete and it's scheduled for release in theaters on July 9.
Look for Olney's broom in a scene where an old woman sweeps up after those filthy pirates.
ON THE WEB: For information on Warren Olney and antique brooms, check his Web site at www.broomshop.com.