By Gabriella Levine
Excited spectators, scattered among them politicians, actors, producers, and a director, crowded Schenectady’s Bow Tie Cinemas the evening of Thursday, April 11 for the red carpet premiere of The Place Beyond the Pines. Among the attendees were Senator Hugh Farley, who has a minor role in the film; Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy; academy award nominee Director Derek Cianfrance; academy award nominee Bradley Cooper; and actor Emory Cohen, who plays AJ, the son of Cooper’s character in the film.
The film also stars Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes and Ray Liotta, who were not present at the Schenectady premiere.
For many, the highlight of the event, which was invite-only, was a surprise appearance from Cooper. Rumors about whether or not Cooper would show were rampant in the hours preceding the premiere, and the press received official confirmation at 7 p.m. that Cooper was driving himself from Boston, where he is currently on location for a film, to Schenectady for the premiere.
Cooper arrived at 9 p.m. and covertly snuck through a back entrance, avoiding the massive crowds lining up in the lobby to see the 10 p.m. showing of the movie.
Members of the press, including the Concordiensis, received an exclusive opportunity to speak with Cooper in a back room of Bow Tie Cinemas.
In person, Cooper was down-to-earth and laid-back, dressed casually in cargo pants and a bright blue windbreaker, with his hair half tied up in a pony tail. He was also carrying a mysterious backpack, which has led the public to ponder its contents.
Cooper clarified for the press that his return to Schenectady for the premiere, where ‘Pines’ was set and shot, was not a sudden whim. “I’ve been trying to come here this whole time, but it was just a matter of scheduling a movie I’m shooting in Boston. We just happened to wrap early enough. I called Derek to see if it was too late to come, and he said no, so we got in the car and drove out here,” he explained.
“This doesn’t happen all the time, you don’t always get to go back to the place where you shot, and Schenectady was a huge part of the movie, besides the fact that it is the title of the movie,” Cooper remarked. “The place beyond the pines” is Mohawk for “Schenectady.”
After speaking with Cooper and many other premiere attendees, the Concordiensis learned that Union played a meaningful, albeit minor, role in the film.
Before filming began, Cianfrance and members of the cast spent time around Schenectady to familiarize themselves with the area and the backdrop of their character’s lives. On his first trip to Schenectady, Cooper accompanied Cianfrance on a ride around the city. One of their notable stops was Union’s campus, which has a unique connection to Cooper’s character, Avery Cross, a Schenectady police officer.
Cianfrance envisioned that Cross was a Union graduate: “We decided that his character probably went to Union College. You know, he was a Schenectady boy who wound up at Union College,” he explained.
Cianfrance noted that the film was a “fictional movie about America,” depicting a harsh and gritty side of Schenectady with a focus on low-income neighborhoods and a corrupt police department. To Cianfrance, Union’s campus represented a slightly different side of the Schenectady that was portrayed in the film. “It was always this kind of beacon of class and it’s always seemed beautiful to me,” he said.
While the campus did not play a major role in the film, it is visible in many of the aerial shots and backdrops of Schenectady.
When the Concordiensis questioned Cooper on what he remembered about Union, at first he replied that he had never been on campus.
Then, Cianfrance nudged him and corrected—“We drove there the very first time you were here! Remember, I drove you around Union College?”
After his brief lapse in memory, Cooper quickly recalled the short time he spent on campus, explaining that his “buddy from high school” is a Union graduate.
One of the producers of the film, Alex Orlovsky, also mentioned that he ran on Union’s track (as did Mendes when she was here) and loved the “beautiful campus.”
President Stephen Ainlay attended the premiere and told the Times Union that, “This is good for the community and good for the college. It’s some excitement for Schenectady.”
Outside of Union, the cast and crew of the film expressed fond memories of many local attractions throughout Schenectady as they made their trip down the nine-foot red carpet.
Emory Cohen was quick to say that the wings at Bombers stood out to him the most, Orlovsky rattled off his list of favorite restaurants, including Ambition (also a Cooper favorite), 20 North and Aperitivo, and Cianfrance noted that his mother-in-law’s house in the Schenectady area is his chosen spot, but First Prize Mike’s takes a close second.
For Cianfrance’s family, Schenectady is a familiar place. Cianfrance’s wife, Shannon Plumb, was born and raised in Rotterdam and Schenectady. “Me and Derek always come back here, because our kids … this is like their favorite place because they have a big backyard!”
Cooper expressed a common sentiment that many from ‘Pines’ who returned to Schenectady articulated: “The idea of being able to come back and see some friendly faces, you don’t want to miss that opportunity.”