June 23, 1998 12:00 AM

Art imitated life when it came to filming writer-director David Mamet’s new black comedy, “State and Main,” starring Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker and William H. Macy. It’s a movie within a movie, focusing on the problems when a film company hits a small town — in this case, in Vermont (though Mamet and company actually shot their movie in Massachusetts). Clark Gregg, a screenwriter (“What Lies Beneath”) who took an acting job in “State and Main,” told PEOPLE at the New York premiere last night that there actually were perils shooting in the sticks. “The locals get pissed off about traffic being tied up with all the big trucks,” he said. “And they wanted to soak the movie company for a little bit more of the money. Sometimes it felt like it was collapsing in on itself.” Character actor David Paymer (“Bounce,” “The Hurricane”), who plays a big-shot producer in the movie, said he didn’t mind the small-town location, even if it did lack for a few Hollywood-style comforts. “They rented four cars for eight actors so we had to share,” he told PEOPLE. “Someone was always yelling, ‘Where’s the keys? Someone sign the car out.’ ” The upside? “It didn’t get as nasty as it did in the movie.”

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