Ben Steelman
StarNews

It depends, of course, on how you define “famous.” Quite a few celebrities do have Wilmington addresses, though.

Among the more notable is Tony Award-winning actress Linda Lavin — perhaps best-known as the star of TV’s “Alice” — who fell in love with the area while filming the TV movie “Stolen Memories: Secrets from the Rose Garden” with Mary Tyler Moore, back in 1995. Lavin and her husband, actor/director Steven Bakunas, founded the Red Barn Studio, a 50-seat theater which opened in 2007 at 1122 S. Third St., Wilmington [Map this]. As co-creative directors, they’ve staged productions of such works as Alfred Uhry’s “Driving Miss Daisy,” John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt” and David Mamet’s “Speed-the-Plow.”

Lavin isn’t the only actor who decided to settle. Dennis Hopper spent several years in Wilmington after filming “Blue Velvet” here. He was largely responsible for the restoration of the Masonic Temple building at 17-21 N. Front St., Wilmington [Map this] — now home to the City Stage theater — and he directed the 1994 feature “Chasers” here and in the Myrtle Beach area. Hopper hasn’t visited Wilmington in a few years, but he reportedly still owns real estate in Landfall and other parts of New Hanover County.

Actor/screenwriter Peter Jurasik — best known as the cosmic diplomat Londo Mollari on the TV series “Babylon 5″ — has lived in Wilmington with his family for nearly a decade. He’s taught classes at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, has appeared on the locally filmed series “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” and co-starred in the locally filmed feature “Amy & Isabelle.”

Joseph Gallison, who played Dr. Neil Curtis on the daytime drama “Days of Our Lives,” has lived in the area for many years and has been extremely active in local theater.

The late Pat Hingle bought a house in Carolina Beach shortly after filming the Stephen King thriller “Maximum Overdrive” here in 1985; he lived here until his death on Jan. 3, 2009. Nick Nolte, who filmed “Weeds” here in 1986, owned a condominium for a while at Pleasure Island.

Other current celebrity residents include “One Tree Hill” star Hilarie Burton and Henry Darrow, who played Manolito on TV’s “The High Chaparral” and who also appeared on “Santa Barbara,” “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The New Zorro.”

Clyde Edgerton, the New York Times best-selling author of such novels as “Raney” and “Walking Across Egypt,” owns a house in town and teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Among notable business leaders with homes in the area are Dr. Fred Eschelman, CEO of the pharmaceutical research giant PPD Inc., and Dennis Gillings, longtime CEO of the pharmaceutical services business Quintiles Transnational.

Quite a few celebrities tie up, at least temporarily, at Wrightsville Beach. DJ John Boy of radio’s “John Boy and Billy Show” has had a resort home on the island for many years and has participated in local fishing tournaments. Mystery writer Patricia Cornwell has spent many summers at Wrightsville and based the climax of her 1998 thriller “Point of Origin” there.

John Edwards, the former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, owns a resort house at Figure Eight Island; former Vice President Al Gore has rented property there. William Bennett, the former U.S. education secretary and federal drug czar and author of “The Book of Virtues,” has owned a house on Bald Head Island, as has “Today Show” celebrity Willard Scott.