East Payne’s quiet glory was shattered on Thursday, April 14, as news spread across campus that Academy Award-winning director Christopher Nolan was on campus to shoot his upcoming film, “Oppenheimer.” Hundreds of people crowded around the courtyard, some pressed against the ground in the hot sun and others against the windows, jostling each other for a chance to see a celebrity.
On one hand, caution became crowded around the tape that stretched from the courtyard’s eastern entrance to Firestone Plaza to the University Chapel. On the other hand, near Nassau Hall, a small group of students jockeyed to see the film set.
“Dude, I’m missing class so much for this,” one student shouted to his friends. “It’s Christopher fucking Nolan!”
Uniformed Public Safety (PSAFE) officials erected orange barricades and blocked the entrance to the courtyard as students headed towards the building.
“Two steps back, two steps back!” The production staff told the crowd.
Several students commented that it “felt like lawnparties all over again,” referring to A$ Associated Press Ferg’s headliner performance, when several students were injured as the crowd pushed towards the barricades around the stage.
“The more you go on and on, the more they’ll come out of here and yell at you!” A PSAFE officer told the crowd to stop.
Matt Damon stood close to the archway on the Firestone side of the building at the break between Cillian Murphy and Jack Quaid take. People everywhere were vying for the smallest glimpse.
“I counted at least three smiles from Matt Damon aimed at me personally,” Fletcher Block ’25 told ‘Prince.
Page Morton ’25, who made a video with Matt Damon, said in an interview that “he was really good and was really ready to take pictures with the students, which I thought was really cool.”
Rumors swirled that Florence Pugh, Emily Blunt and Robert Downey Jr were on campus, but that was not true, according to crew members who spoke to the crowd. A crew member said that Downey Jr. had left town after the previous days of filming.
The film is based on the 2005 book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin.
Dr. Michael Gordin, professor of the history of science at the university, speculates that the scene filmed at East Pine was probably “set after late 1942, when the Manhattan Project officially began and Oppenheimer took over. [with the Manhattan Project]Since Oppenheimer also participated in the recruitment of other scientists, Gordin theorized that the scene at Princeton may have been related to Oppenheimer’s recruitment of other scientists. “But this is only a guess,” said Gordin of a team. The member confirmed his guess, however, telling The Daily Princetonian that the scene being filmed took place in 1945.
Fortunately, the crowd was not huge, but the students were determined to take the most fleeting look at the actors. Anyone who manages to break into East Payne will find that there are lots of people crowded around every window, with cameras on almost every phone open. The staff cleared the areas with the largest window, noting that people could appear in the shot if they crowd too close. Across the courtyard, the third-floor men’s restroom was crowded with people almost leaning against the window; A crew member yelled at them to shut it down.
Professor Daniela Maierhofer of the Department of Classics has an office with windows that look directly over the courtyard. Asked whether he had received any prior warning or instructions from the crew, he said they did not. “Not already,” she said, “but when they started filming, a crew member came into my office and asked me to turn off the lights… hopefully a good movie.”
Maierhofer invited us over to his office for a closer look at filming, where the “Prince” team was able to take some pictures.
It seemed like everyone on campus had an opinion.
“I think watching filming was a very unique experience. I didn’t find it disruptive, but more than that I found it to be a fun activity in the afternoon,” Eliot Peck ’25 told ‘Prince.
University history professor Kevin Krause said in a tweet that “The ‘Oppenheimer’ film crew has taken over the Princeton campus and, no, ha ha, they don’t give a shit if you’re trying to get are for class.”
When asked how the university determines which projects are allowed to shoot on campus in the context of disruption, deputy university spokesman Michael Hotchkiss told ‘Prince’, “The university is a case-by-campus film on campus. Review requests to start projects on a case-by-case basis. All filming is carefully planned with a focus on safety and minimizing any disruption to the university community. Generally, Princeton only The University wishes to recover any costs that are incurred by the production.
The University of Communications did not respond to a specific question about whether PSAFE officers were additionally compensated or supported for their role in enforcing barriers and filming the perimeter.
After filming in East Payne for over an hour, some of the cast and crew took a break at Whig Hall and then moved to the University Chapel to continue production.
Mujtuba Yusufi was able to make a picture with Christopher Nolan in ’24 Chapel, and told ‘Prince’ how he made it.
Nolan has been nominated twice for Best Picture, twice for Best Screenplay, and once for Best Director at the Academy Awards, and has starred in hits such as “The Dark Knight,” “Inception,” and “Interstellar.” has directed.
Joseph said that he had gone to the chapel to pray, but Father Jack and his friend left soon after.
“I have many friends [people in the] Aquinas Institute So I saw the priest right outside the chapel and I talked to him and I asked him if I could go to the chapel to pray,” Yusuf said.
“I was in the chapel there and I waited an hour for them to watch the film,” Joseph said, adding that there were several Princeton employees inside the chapel, “to tell the film crew who they were allowed to interact with.” ..Finally, Christopher Nolan went to the staff at Princeton and went to thank them all.”
Then Yusuf took this step. A Princeton employee introduced him, “because my mom wanted to”. [me] To take a picture,” laughed Yusuf. “He’s like my favorite director… It’s the highlight of my semester.”
Head Sports Editor Wilson Conn, Head Prospect Editor Jose Pablo Fernandez García, Head Prospect Editor Emerita Ouhajane McGee and Chief USG Correspondent Annie Rupertas contributed reporting on this piece.
Hope Perry is the Head Podcast Editor at “Prince,” covering USG, American politics and student activism. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @hopemperry.