Early in the day, Clooney was seen inspecting the set out front, where TV news vans were parked. Clooney moved small things here and there, as students were directed to the back entrance of the school for class. Extras were arriving by bus. Later, Clooney came outside and waved at onlookers.
Inside, the school was transformed Monday from an institution of higher learning to a Hollywood set as crews prepared for this week’s filming of “The Ides of March.”
Students lounged in the stairwells outside the building’s two-story atrium, normally an area set up as a lounge, where workers had removed the couches, tables and the grand piano to set up rows of tables covered in gray.
In one corner, beside a stack of boxes bearing Dell logos, a man set up a bank of computers that he said will be a part of the set. A large red, white and blue sign reading “Ohio Democratic Party Debate” blocked a doorway to one of the lounges to the side. Up on the second level, technicians focused large lights on the scene below.
“I think this is a perfect place to film,” said Natalie Chlan, a freshman business student from Boston, eating her lunch on the steps Monday. “We only know they’re here from hearsay, because no one’s really told us anything about it.”
“We only know because there’s been a lot of George Clooney sightings,” said her companion Shannon Balmac, a freshman from Cincinnati.
Sara Fagin, a sophomore from Columbus, had one of those Clooney sightings.
“We were in the library and someone posted on Facebook that he was here,” she said. “So we went running out there.”
She expected to see a big crowd of people, she said, but there was only Clooney and a couple of other men.
“There was no one around except for us and I felt really embarrassed,” Fagin said. “I didn’t say anything, but now I wish I had.”
Fagin and Carly Campbell, also a sophomore from Columbus, said that they didn’t sign up to be one of the 708 extras enlisted for a Thursday filming session set for Hall Auditorium. For them, Green Beer Day trumps spending 12 hours on set.
Kristen Krempp, however, got confirmation that she will be one of the unpaid extras, but she hasn’t heard when or where to report yet.
“I didn’t have much going on for Green Beer Day,” she said, “so it seemed like something else to do that would be kind of exciting.
“Who wouldn’t want to hang out with George Clooney all day?”
Miami University to play itself in Clooney project
Although university officials and the production company are playing their cards close to the vest, a few details over Miami University’s role in “The Ides of March” began to emerge Monday as crews readied the Farmer School of Business and Hall Auditorium for a week of production.
A large sign at the Farmer School of Business read “Ohio Democratic Primary Debate,” and tables were set up that could stand in as a press room or a boiler room for pollsters. Meanwhile, a surreptitious look inside Hall Auditorium revealed a stage being set up in a similar red, white and blue motif, and a call went out last week for 708 extras, which is close to the seating capacity for Hall Auditorium’s orchestra level.
So can we surmise that Miami University will be the site of a debate?
Oxford will apparently have to wait until the movie is released to find out.
All unit publicist Tracy Schaefer can say is, “Miami University plays Miami University in the film. It doesn’t stand in for anyone else.”
She did say that “The Ides of March” production will take place entirely in Oxford this week as crews focus on creating two sets and preparing for a few outdoor shots.
“The production liked the brick buildings and their architecture, which is reminiscent of a classic New England, Ivy league school,” Schaefer said. “The auditorium is featured as well as rooms in the business school.”
“We’ve heard for years that this is what a college is supposed to look like,” said Miami University spokeswoman Claire Wagner. “The people who created Miami University did a really good job of giving the campus a traditional appearance.”
Because the university is playing itself, the marketing department set out to make sure movie-goers knew that by creating a series of posters to hang in conspicuous areas.
“Anytime we can get the Miami name out there, we will,” said Tracy Hughes, director of marketing and creative services.
So Hughes and her staff created a series of posters advertising things like rugby and glee club try-outs that would have the Miami name featured prominently.
“They don’t normally make a point of putting ‘Miami University’ on their posters, because everyone knows where they are,” she said.
They also took a bunch of giant red ‘M’ stickers from the bookstore and posted them on garbage cans.
“Something like this movie is real point of pride for Miami alumni, students and staff,” she said.
Diana Durr, director of the Oxford Visitors and Convention Bureau, said that it’s too soon to tell what kind of economic impact this week will have on the community, but it could be in the $250,000 to $300,000 range.
“The hotels are telling me that the production company booked blocks of rooms for the week,” Durr said. “But I’m told that George Clooney and the stars will be staying in Cincinnati, though some of the other actors will be in town.”
She said that the bureau uses an established reporting process that considers the dining, parking and gasoline that members of the crew will spend money on during their visit.
“We’re looking forward to a very big week and will be excited to see it on the big screen,” Wagner said.