You Oughta Be in Pictures, Berkeley

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Leslie Tseng/Illustration


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It probably wouldn't surprise you to know that the 2004 film "William Hung: Hangin' with Hung" was shot in Berkeley, right? You've heard the rumors about his residence in Clark Kerr, you've fielded the questions from numerous sub-pop-culture mavens, and you've sat by patiently while your non-Cal friends discuss his "American Idol" appearance. Don't you think our Sturdy Golden Bear deserves more on-screen credit than that?

Fortunately, our precious campus and beloved city have provided the backdrop for a lengthy list of less-embarrassing films. Well, almost. Some of them are actually kind of embarrassing. "Boys and Girls" (2000), starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and "American Pie" grads Jason Biggs and Allyson Hannigan, is probably not something we want to brag about. This teen flick, about a budding romance between two very different Berkeley students (a fictional story at its core) featured actual Berkeley students in class because they filmed the movie during the school year. And to think that the professors get mad at us for making announcements before lecture!

But others actually give subtle credit where credit is due. Besides the obvious "Berkeley in the Sixties," a 1990 documentary that you can and should watch in the Media Resources Center, and "People's Park," another self-explanatory documentary made in 1969, "The Graduate" (1967) stands out as the next-best moment of cinematic glory for Cal. Although many of the "Berkeley" scenes were actually filmed at USC, which is unfortunate (but convenient for filmmakers), Moe's Books on Telegraph makes a short but sweet cameo in one of Ben Braddock's (Dustin Hoffman) pensive, tumultuous visits to the area to see Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross).

Another classic, "Harold and Maude" (1971), covered major territory while on location in the Yay. The film was shot not only in Berkeley, but also in Burlingame, Daly City, Emeryville, Menlo Park, Oakland, Palo Alto and San Francisco. BART could have probably gotten some good publicity out of that, but instead our subway had to wait for Will Smith and "The Pursuit of Happyness." The roadtrippers in "Harold and Maude," however, tip their proverbial hats to the mudflats near the Ashby Avenue exit on Interstate 80 en route to a picnic.

John Cusack lovers will be delighted to discover that the Cesar E. Chavez Park, found just past 4th Street near the Berkeley Marina, was featured in the 2000 film "High Fidelity." Oddly enough, the rest of the movie was shot in Chicago, but our tiny spot of "beach" was enough to take the camera work out of state. And the nearby marina green was used in the 2007 film "The Kite Runner." Who knew our scenery could be so … photogenic?

The campus has also had its fair share of cameos. LeConte Hall got some screen time in the 1998 Robin Williams film "Patch Adams." Several spots in the home of Cal Physics were used in classroom scenes throughout the movie. The Campanile, among other campus landmarks, was featured in the 2000 film "Peaceful Warrior," based on a book written by alum and former gymnast Dan Millman. And-this one's the best-our own Governator haunted the halls of VLSB while filming his 1994 masterpiece "Junior" with Danny DeVito.

Although he wasn't on the big screen, Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher) has probably given the most consistent props to Cal. "The O.C.," even in its most dramatic moments, still portrayed Berkeley as a somewhat exotic place in the North, filled with proactive student groups and sage professors. No wonder those Newpsies moved back to their old stomping grounds.

Too bad they never ended up revealing the Cohens' Berkeley address…


Contact Stefanie Lee at [email protected]



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