Hollywood Comes to Campus
Student Extras Forbear Trials of The Acting Life for a Chance at Immortality on the Silver Screen
By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs
Hollywood made a temporary mark on the campus landscape this Sunday as the patio entrance of Giannini Hall became an outdoor cafe, full of parked bikes and tables shaded by blue and yellow "Cal" umbrellas. With a dousing of spray paint, a brown spot in the lawn got "greened." Faux benches -- dead ringers for granite, from a distance -- appeared along the paths.
Alterations in place, filming proceeded for "Boys and Girls," a Hollywood coming-of-age film set at Berkeley. The comic romance features an uptight engineering major (played by Freddie Prinze Jr.) and a party-loving classics student (Claire Forlani), who first met as children, re-encounter each other as Berkeley undergrads, and eventually fall in love. Robert Iscove, who worked with Prinze in this year's money maker "She's All That," directs.
Negotiations between the campus and the production company -- to determine the final filming schedule and payment -- are still in progress. The latest plan has the crew doing one more large production shoot of campus exteriors Nov. 7. Depending on details, "Boys and Girls" will pay between $100,000 and $115,000 for its use of the campus.
Administration officials read, commented on and eventually approved a script that portrayed Berkeley in a favorable light. An earlier draft, for example, had Prinze using popsicle sticks for a class engineering project. In the new-and-improved version, he's doing more sophisticated science, in a seismic simulation lab in Davis Hall.
Those who see the movie, scheduled for release sometime next year, may also recognize Doe Library, Kleeberger Field, Memorial Stadium, Sproul Plaza and Valley Life Sciences. Haight Street in San Francisco will stand in for Telegraph Avenue, according to publicist David Linck.
About 150 Berkeley students were hired as extras -- mostly for outdoor campus shots.
"The only colors we weren't allowed to wear were red or white," two students at the Sunday morning shoot reported -- red because that was the color Prinze was wearing, white because it looks too washed out on film.
Many seemed disillusioned with their film debuts.
"Very redundant," commented freshman Lisa Gibson. She and a large group of extras, dressed in light clothing for a scene taking place in April, had spent a chilly morning doing multiple retakes for a campus montage shot. At last the sun had broken through the clouds, but the group had just been instructed to change into warmer clothes for a scene set in winter.
"The first scene this morning was brutal," said Kate, a graduate student in rhetoric who had brought her bike, along with her roommate, on the promise of a slightly inflated rate of pay.
"We're skilled performers," Kate explained. "I, of course, brought a helmet promoting bike safety," she said ironically.
The Miramax crew had just done four takes of Forlani hurrying to class along a crowded path near Strawberry Creek.
"She looks way too old to be a college student," said Kate, who claimed to regret that she had accepted the job. "We all look very young. A lot of us have bad skin."
Kate reported a tense interchange, earlier in the day, between the Hollywood crew and an organization called The Ruckus Society doing nonviolent civil disobedience training just across the lawn. The activists, some of them Berkeley students, were preparing to protest the World Trade Organization in Seattle next month. Their mock mass arrest had been quite noisy, much to the chagrin of Boys and Girls Productions.
Eventually the two groups had negotiated a truce, she said, but the film crew kept cracking jokes about the protesters.
"It's a movie on a college campus, and they've lost all youthful idealism," she said of her employers.
"But I, of course, will see the movie," added Kate. "There's a chance that my roommate's helmet will make it in."