Last week I was walking like a lighting bug across campus in between meetings. I silently cursed my luck as a traffic jam of pedestrians appeared up ahead along College Walk (the main drag off 116th Street). But the really the large group of students stopping to take selfies and apply Snapchat filters weren’t the normal parade of sight seekers. In fact, there was a special event on campus that day.
“Filming in Progress” signs were posted at each entry point and large sections of walkways were chained off. In the far distance at the top of Low Library steps I squinted and saw a film crew doing something flim-y. I nodded, felt slightly interested but not enough to stick around, and went on my way. It wasn’t until I got home that night I decided to use my detective skills to figure out what project was being shot. It turns out The Papers, a film directed by Steven Spielberg and staring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep was on the docket. It’s a retelling of the real-life drama faced by The Washington Post when it was challenging the federal government for the right to publish classified information from 1971. You and I know this as “the Pentagon Papers.”
Don’t believe me at least one of America’s biggest stars was on campus? Our sister school Teachers College tweeted out the evidence:
Forget about New York City — Columbia University is the place to be for some real star sightings. Throughout the summer the block bordering the Admissions Office is always filming scenes for locally-based television series and major-motion pictures featuring faux faculty — they like to use our classrooms and campus grounds as backdrops for their character’s lesson plans. For an exhaustive list, here’s a Wikipedia page on CU in popular culture. Outside of television and film, President Barack Obama gave the commencement address at Barnard College in 2012, former first lady Michelle and daughter Malia were spotted visiting the campus back in 2015, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the keynote address at SIPA’s annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum. And let’s not forget Affan Javed’s, MPA ’16, groupie moment when he met various policy superstars while studying at SIPA.
If I were you, the next time you’re in town make sure you pack an extra celebrity sighting signature booklet just for your visits to Columbia’s campus. 🙂