If there’s one man who can single-handedly change the seasoned, complicated relationship between the words “New Haven” and “shooting,” it’s Steven Spielberg . At any other time, a young Koffee Too? patron excitedly declaring, “They’re shooting on the Green!” would have been met with wide-eyed terror and impulsive flights in the opposite direction. But at about 11 a.m. on a particularly humid Saturday in late June, it was excitement — not fear — that was brewing.
“It’s not everyday you get to see a movie being filmed,” Ben Ofori-Okai ’09 said later that day, standing alongside Elm Street near a group of idling Oldsmobiles and nosy pedestrians.
And that seemed to be the general consensus: This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to board a time machine destined for Marshal College circa 1957, where one could window shop at Woolworth’s Hardware Store on Chapel Street or visit a classroom filled with ancient artifacts and clean-cut, all white students. For younger passersby — those who neither relish memories of the 1950s nor care to visit it — this was an opportunity to glimpse some very famous big shots, men who gave us Han Solo, “E.T. The Extraterrestrial” and … Louis Stevens, from Disney’s “Even Stevens.”
For others, Indy’s visit wasn’t merely a chance to see a movie star — it was a chance to be one. On June 11 and 12, about two weeks before the camera operator yelled the first “Rolling!”, Billy Dowd Casting held an open call for extras at the Omni Hotel. Aspiring actors showed up in droves, some as early as 6 a.m., and waited in overlong queues to try and nab their brief brush with fame and LaBoeuf.
“They asked me if I had ever owned a dog,” said Sylvia Bingham ’09, who went to the casting call but received no callback from Billy Dowd. “I told them I could bark,” she said optimistically .
Little did Bingham know that, according to Ward 1 Alderman and “Jones” extra Nick Shalek, there was a special “Yale only” casting call a day before the big Open Call. The unpublicized event, which secretly invited members of the Yale community to audition for small parts, was a tradeoff for Yale’s generously “accommodating” behavior toward the film crew, Shalek said.
And while many New Haven residents and Yale affiliates seemed quite willing to “accommodate” the city’s flashback makeover, the presence of highly paid celebrities and the economic boost provided by the filming, some were more hesitant to accept the road blocks and detours.
“Yeah, it was a pain the ass,” said Jeffrey Reitman ’08, whose morning walk from the Elmhurst apartment complex on Elm street to Dunham Laboratories at 10 Hillhouse Ave. was significantly interrupted during the filming. “The Science Hill shuttle couldn’t [run as usual] because College Street was filled with tons of sixteen-wheel trucks.”
Even when members of the crew weren’t redirecting traffic or yelling at pedestrians to avoid certain areas of campus due to a “safety risk,” many shared the feeling that Yale had been invaded.
“They’re like Nazis,” said Karen Grethlein, a high-school student and Junior Statesman of America staying in Timothy Dwight college at the time, referring to an incident in which a crew member asked her to “put away” her cell phone after he suspected she was trying to photograph Harrison Ford.
“It was really sweet to have a big movie being filmed here,” Reitman insisted, “but when I would pass by the set [where I knew they were about to start shooting], I felt kind of like an intruder … which was kind of weird.”
Almost a year from now, though, when the as-yet-untitled “Indiana Jones 4” hits theaters (a tentative release date of May 2008 has been announced), perhaps Reitman and his fellow Yale affiliates will feel right at home in the movie.
That’s doubtful, says one source, an extra in the film who wished to remain anonymous. “I’ve heard that only the opening ten minutes of the movie were filmed [in New Haven]. The rest of the adventure takes place elsewhere,” the source said. “And besides, everything was disguised anyway to look like [Marshall College.] The name ‘Yale’ won’t even appear in the movie.”