Hollywoodcomes toBUAug. 25, 1999
Students fill extra roles
By JEFF HUETT
Editor in Chief
On a day with the temperatures reaching triple digits, Baylor found itself transformed into a campus in the midst of a cool Maine fall as a caravan of trailers, actors and directors emerged on Waco to film several scenes for the feature film Where the Heart Is.
Filming on campus lasted just one day with lead actress Natalie Portman shooting scenes in front of Pat Neff Hall, which was changed to Bowdoin College's Harpswell Hall, in the Burleson Quadrangle, inside the Armstrong Browning Library and near the stairs leading between Old Main Hall and the Draper Academic Building.
Filming on the movie began June 21 in and around Austin with the second to last shot in the movie filmed at Baylor on Aug. 16. Its release will be in fall 2000 or spring 2000.
'We couldn't find an eastern-looking university in the Austin area and Baylor has the kind of old-fashioned red brick buildings that are reminiscent of New England colleges, which is what we were trying to duplicate,' said the film's co-producer, Susan Cartsonis. 'There's also a lot of trees and foliage, and although there's no ivy, you'll just have to imagine it's there.'
Portman, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing, and Sally Field star in the film as well as James Frain from the movie Elizabeth and Dilan Bruno, who played a small part in Saving Private Ryan.
'We changed Pat Neff only because that's a name so strongly associated with
Texas that if we left the name up there, nobody whose from this part of the
county would buy that this part of the story takes place in Maine,' she said.
'It would be hard enough for people in Waco to buy the fact that this is
Maine once they have walked around this campus and they recognize it, but we
didn't want to make it any harder on them.'
The movie is directed by first time feature film director Matt Williams, who
created the Rosanne show, and with his two partners, created Home
Improvement, which spanned eight seasons on Television.
The movie is based on a New York Times Bestselling novel by Billie Letts,
which reached that status after Oprah Wynfrey chose it as a selection for her
But the movie wasn't just filmed on the Baylor campus; It also included
Baylor students as extras.
Nancy Parrish, the locations casting director for Waco, said a 'mainly
closed' casting call was held on the Baylor campus to cast extras to take
part in the film. She called student organizations from Baylor, as well as
area churches with college departments and youth groups and local theater
groups to find those who would audition to be in the film. Her goal: to
assemble the most diverse group possible to play up-scale college students
attending a school in Maine.
'We needed a representative group of student faces to mix and match to form a
diverse group,' Parrish said. 'We did not just need all blondes.'
She said 75 to 80 percent of the 90 extras cast were Baylor students.
'When you make a movie you have to paint a picture, and in this case,
students are part of the picture,' Parrish said. 'They're just as important
as Pat Neff Hall, or in this case Harpswell Hall, is to the movie.'
Lance Ferguson, a Longview senior, was amazed not only by the fact he might
actually be seen in the film, but also the fact that a portion of the film
was being filmed on his college campus. He also was charmed by the way he
was treated on the set.
'People out there on the set treat you like you're somebody,' Ferguson said.
'It was not the stereotypical way I thought a movie set would be like.
Everyone has taken a big interest in us in making sure we are comfortable.
We're just like the real stars.'
Roxanne Wilson, a Chandler Arizona senior and a member of Chamber, said her
main goal was to remain off the cutting-room floor.
'I don't care who I meet,' she said. 'I just want to be in the movie.'
Although by her own remembrance few, if any, words were spoken between her
and actress Portman, just the being near the actress during filming improved
her chances of remaining in the film.
'At first I was supposed to walk one way and then my walking angle was
changed,' Wilson said. 'I think the new angle put me in a good position, so
I'm hoping I'll be in there in the end.'