FROM PRINCETON TO HOLLYWOOD

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With Oscar season swirling, it seems fine time to take a look at some A-LIST movies, past and present, with a Princeton area connection.

The 1994 romantic comedy “I.Q.”, is the story of Albert Einstein (Walter Matthau) and his attempts to orchestrate the love life of his niece (Meg Ryan) and a local interest (Tim Robbins). It is filmed entirely on location in Princeton, Cranbury, Hopewell, Montgomery, and Lawrenceville, NJ.

“Princeton is very well-preserved,” notes director Fred Schepisi. “The buildings alone were terrific to photograph and gave us a great atmosphere to work in. In Princeton, you get to meet a lot of academics and you understand what that community is like. It informed our work.”

The chosen locations mirror much of Einstein’s own life in town, which he called home from 1933 until his death in 1955. The Institute for Advanced Study, Palmer Hall at Princeton University, and his former home to name a few. Other recognizable scenes include the Princeton Battlefield and a gas station/garage just outside Hopewell Borough.

“I.Q.” began shooting in early spring and lasted through July. “We took full advantage of all the blossoms,” says Schepisi during a press conference in Manhattan. “Princeton to me is the most amazing place I’ve ever seen in springtime.

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Cut to “A Beautiful Mind, the 2001 drama based on the life story of the late John Nash (Russell Crowe), a Nobel Laureate in Economics and Senior Research Mathematician at Princeton University.

This film, directed by Ron Howard, was inspired by a bestselling book nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. The film was nominated for eight Oscars and won four, including Best Picture and Best Director. On-site film locations included Holder Courtyard and Firestone Common Room on the University campus.

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Next up: “Whiplash“, the 2014 drama written and directed by Princeton native Damien Chazelle.  The film tells the story of the relationship between a jazz drummer (Miles Teller) and his conductor (J.K. Simmons).  Chazelle himself was a drummer in the acclaimed Studio Band at Princeton High School. “Whiplash” was nominated for five Oscars, with three wins, including Best Supporting Actor.

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And somehow, Damien Chazelle has struck gold twice.  He is on the Oscar hunt again Sunday, February 26, 2017, at the 89th Academy Awards, with his romantic musical “La La Land.”

The film is nominated for 14 awards including 3 for Chazelle: Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director, and heads into the Oscar race on the heels of record-breaking wins at the Golden Globes. 

Treat yourself and head over to the Princeton Garden Theatre to see this extraordinary film before Oscar Sunday.  A-LIST TIP: Get there in time to see the pre-film video and see the writer/director share his own movie memories, made right here in town.