The first thing I saw when I stepped out of my office building was a line of trucks neatly rowed up on 33rd St. As I turned the corner, I ran into the barriers blocking off the area on 5th Avenue to the eyes of the normal passerby. It was movie time in New York and so many times before I had witnessed it. Of course this one was a bit different because it was right outside from where I work. In the past two years I had never managed to be so insanely close to a movie crew. But since it was raining on that particular day I didn’t bother much to stop and witness the crew, just I minded my own way.
The next day our mailman enters the office. On the Tuesday before we had been speculating with him who would be starring in the film. “I wouldn’t mind getting a glimpse of Brad Pitt” my Chinese co-worker announces in her innocent, dreamy way. “So guess who I saw when walking past” the postman is trying to hook us. “Who?” I ask without having any second thoughts.
“What’s that guy’s name? Not Brad Pitt, but older. Was in Top Gun (1986). Part of Scientology, too.” “No way!” we scream, already jumping in the air. “You mean Tom Cruise??!” “Yeah, that guy” he responds with his drawling New Yorker accent. “Small dude. Saw him filming with a black-haired lady.” “Did you get a picture, did you get a picture?” we are nearly attacking him. “No, haha, I don’t care much about that” he laughs at us and then leaves the office. Not without telling us that the crew will return between 12 and 1 PM on that particular Wednesday again. Wohaaa, we are ecstatic! And thrilled. And all we want to do is time to pass fast so that we can run outside and get a picture of one of the biggest stars around.
As 12 PM draws nearer we are trying to figure out who will go on their lunch break first. She exchanges phone numbers with me and promises to tell me if she really sees the crew outside again. Right before 2 PM I get a message from her saying: I saw him! I can’t stand it anymore. I storm downstairs and am even being yelled at by the guards of the ESB for “running in the hallway”. Luckily they were not able to catch me, I was just too fast. One door is blocked, the other one I can open. As soon as I step outside, I already know this is going to be a tough one. Police and crew members are navigating everyone past the scenes and telling them not to stop. My turn to pass. And there he is: Tom Cruise in his finest, tannest, brunettest appearance ever seen live. I can’t help it but stop and snap a picture. A red-haired, bitchy crew member is rolling his eyes and I tell him to be in a better mood next time. He justifies his behavior by trying to complain he has been doing this all day long (yelling at people to get out of the scene). Well, if I were to get paid for it, I think I would look a bit happier than he did…
I hurry inside the Starbucks which is right opposite the scene and witness the last two minutes of the shoot. Tom Cruise then turns around to the crowds which are eagerly awaiting something from him, of course. He charmingly waves and then heads off, probably to the next appointment in who-knows-where. These are the pictures I was able to snap, before I was almost run over by the crowd behind me.
I do have to say that he looks nothing close to 5 ft 6 (such as wiki and other dubious internet sources want to make believe). Despite his petit height, he has a lot of charisma and seems nowhere close to arrogant. I believe his hair was dyed for this specific scene and he also looked exceptionally tanned but it all fit him very well. I am glad I was able to get a sneak peak of what might end up on the big screens
two years from now. What a highlight this Wednesday has been indeed!
In general, you see a large amount of movies shot in the streets of New York, no doubt about it. Even though the movie industry has largely carried over to LA, this city will always be a top scene for films, no matter how important or independent. I know that the area around Columbus Circle has always brought me close to some shoots, for whatever reason.
There is even an alley called Law and Order Way around Pier 62 on the West side. You can find more info here but it’s basically a main street that is used frequently in the crime series and to which the crews keep returning. Albeit I have rarely walked past an opening gala for a TV series, I managed to do so about one and a half years ago in Chelsea. While innocently strolling the streets of Chelsea I was drawn to a bigger crowd in front of a movie theater. Turns out this was the opening night of the ABC series Detroit 187. Unfortunately they discontinued it after one meager season but I became a big fan of it – not only because I had seen the main actors in person just before it was aired.
The endless amount of actors are not only here during prime time for the Tribeca Film Festival or other classics. Catherine Zeta Jones must have been a regular at some stores and coffee shops up in the Upper West Side when her husband Michael Douglas was treated there not too long ago in 2011. Random celebs crossing the streets in front of you or sitting at a random restaurant in New York – it has only happened to me once when I ran across Chris Noth in the Da Marino but I can see how celeb spotting can be made into a sport. And my favorite encounter I had? Seeing Kai Pflaume non-chalantly walking the streets of Times Square on a memorable September evening in 2010. While I had only turned to see who else is speaking German in this city of 8 million I was eye in eye with the famous German show master. And I can happily say that he looked as much down to earth as he appears to be on TV. An observation I readily passed on to my friends online.
Of course not every scene is as glamorous when seeing Tom Cruise in front of the Empire State Building film. Still, that does not make the shoot less interesting if not to say fun. Such as the independent movie shoots in Williamsburg or Dumbo. Just walking by on a random Sunday afternoon or other weekday can make you become passionately involved in kick-boxing students or pros of other obsessions who try to give their very best in front of the camera.
It’s movie time in New York: Always, anywhere and anytime. Making this city even more vibrant than it already is!