My Place Beyond the Pines

place beyond the pines my house leah

A scene from the story that usually plays at Leah's house.

By Leah Wolff-Pellingra

Somewhere, there is an Italian restaurant where Michael Corleone shot Sollozo and McCluskey.

Somewhere, there is a bar where Matt Damon slammed a piece of lined paper on a window and said, "I got her number. How d'ya like them apples?"

Somewhere there is a bench where Forest Gump sat, a ring where Rocky fought, and a stage where Jennifer Hudson, threw out her arms, opened up her throat and sang, "You're going to love me."

I was watching the mastery that is Silver Linings Playbook last week, watching Bradley Cooper start to reach the height of his craft, and all I could think was: "Oh crap. You know that scene that will finally win Bradley Cooper his Oscar? That's going to be in my house."

It all seemed like a good idea at the time.

You've probably heard the stories about how all this started. All over Schenectady, with blue painters tape, signs went up: "We're filming in your neighborhood. We'd like to look at your house."

At first, I looked up "Place Beyond the Pines - Working Title" on the almighty IMDB on the off chance of robbers casing the joint -- ironic in retrospect. Then, I said, "Eh. What the heck?"

Three weeks later, we were in contract negotiations and director Derek Cianfrance was walking through my house as a final option, with the director of photography complimenting the light in my dining room and the art director remarking how nice it was that we hadn't "updated."

Cianfrance asked about the neighborhood. We live in a space in Old Niskayuna where the moms stay home when their babes are small then head back to work to make life a little easier. The husbands teach, manage stores, go and walk the beat as Niskayuna and Schenectady cops. Our neighborhood is the one you buy into if you want the Niskayuna schools for your children and you're just able to pay that higher mortgage payment in lieu of private school tuition.

During the summer, kids roam between all the yards, all the houses, every adult out in the gardens, calling between the fences. Once a year, we shut down the block, hire a bouncy bounce, and the grills are pulled into the street with kebabs and burgers and dogs. Our houses sit spitting distance apart. We are close neighbors and we are good neighbors. We have to be -- a stone's throw and loud echos will float from one window to the next.

The house as movie set

When it all came down to it during the production, we were out of our house for six weeks for all of two nights of filming. We stayed at my parents' house in Schodack -- Jewish saints if there ever were. We watched as 80 percent of our furniture was moved out. Other pieces that seemed period suitable or items discovered by the crew behind the now moved dressers were quickly upgraded to movie props.

One day, I walked in my home, identified myself as the "homeowner" and walked upstairs to find a long lost piece of my grandmother's costume jewelry draped across a vanity in a room that had just weeks ago been my bedroom. I quickly removed it. Didn't ask, didn't tell, just took -- they meant no harm, and I figured I was doing none.

In other parts of the house, my daughters' toys were strategically placed to emulate a messy playroom, though the props mistress needed a reminder that Backyardigans didn't exist in 1990. I looked in my bathroom to randomly discover a hair crimper also awaiting the return of the 1990s, along with a plentiful supply of soap on a rope. Our walls were turning multiple new colors reminiscent of that same period -- think non-updated doctor's office, with rose, gray blue and lilac. Fruit baskets were hanging in our kitchen, our new stainless steel fridge swapped out for a more "period" ecru monstrosity.

This is the neighborhood

On the night the shooting for The Place Beyond the Pines began, there was a hullabaloo from the powers that be on the crew. The grass in my front yard had been cut by my neighbor, because house proud me could not BEAR to have an uncut lawn on the Hollywood screen in front of all of America. However, we had messed with a prop for the upcoming scene -- as per the script, an injured Bradley Cooper should not have been able to mow his own lawn.

What the director and the art director did not understand was this: in our neighborhood, if a neighbor had been injured, the lawn would have been cut. Casseroles would have arrived. The driveway would have been plowed. Bradley Cooper and his family would not have been alone, just as we all were not alone that night as the whole neighborhood, the WHOLE neighborhood, and all their closest friends and relatives sat out on the front yards, lawn chairs in the streets, and watched the filming.

As I wandered up to the neighborhood, I was stopped briefly by security. I said who I was and they were lovely and kind. I was found by Jenny, the assistant locations manager, who took me around, helped me find my place. Those who knew my face said hello, offered me a snack from the food tent, brought me along for dinner -- they cooked everything from meat and potatoes to organic vegan. With the late night shoot, I sat for lunch with the crew in the Niskayuna High School cafeteria at 11 pm.

The man in my bed

In the end, I just shook his hand. Bradley Cooper's, that is. He was perfectly gracious. In the movie, he sleeps on my side of the bed. In the trailer, you can see my curtains on the walls and his head on my mattress. However, that is NOT my purple, plush headboard. Nor is my dining room lilac purple, nor my living room Pepto Bismol pink. Heaven forbid. The tiles in my kitchen DO remain that deep retro green and I like them that way, damn it.

After all that buildup, when Bradley Cooper told me how perfect my house was for his character, it was all I could do to stammer out how the walls were not normally pink and I hoped he enjoyed MY home, because I wanted it back when he was done. I think he laughed.

We'll be at the premiere on Thursday at the Bowtie. On a whole, it was the experience of a lifetime. I just kept saying to the crew, "Please tell me no one gets killed in my house and no one has sex in my bed." They never quite gave me a straight answer. I suppose we'll just have to wait until Thursday and find out.

Leah the Nosher writes about food and family at Noshing Confessions. She is the proud owner of a Place Beyond the Pines hair crimper.


I just learned the other day that the Forest Gump bench, in fact, no longer exists.

I had trouble getting past the scorn and privilege in this statement: "Our neighborhood is the one you buy into if you want the Niskayuna schools for your children and you're just able to pay that higher mortgage payment in lieu of private school tuition."

In theory, having my house be a shooting location for a movie would be awesome... especially one with a director or actors that I admire. Buuuut being displaced for six weeks is not so awesome. Do you know why it took so long when there were only two days of shooting? Was that whole time used to prep the set?

I grew up just up the street from where Leah now lives. In the late 1970s-early 1980s I was one of those kids running from yard to yard. I can't wait to see the old neighborhood in the movie!

This could have been an interesting essay, if it were about what it's like to have a movie made in your neighborhood and house, instead of how much you love your neighborhood and house.

Lucy, I think you may have misunderstood Leah's statement. This neighborhood in Old Niskayuna is not one of the newer subdivisions with million-dollar homes that that town has become known for. The folks who live here are not people of "privilege." But they work hard and pay the higher taxes so their kids can go to the good schools and have some of the same opportunities those from the big, fancy houses have.

Leah, i totally loved your story!
Wish you would write human interest stories for the TU.

Slacker - Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!! Say it ain't so.

Lucy - No scorn intended. The intention was framed very, very well by Roon.

Paul - We had Hurricane Irene in the middle. It extended the time in both directions - both getting the house ready and getting it back to livable condition. Living in a home with pepto bismol walls was making me twitch ;)

KM - Eh. So be it.

Roon - You nailed my intention. Thank you.

MG - Tell the TU :)

The "apples" line from Good Will Hunting was delivered through the window of a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robins, not a bar.

Ironic. If the character really was a Schenectady cop he'd have to move a few blocks to the west. Residency requirement -- no Nisky for YOU!

Love the pic and the story. Have fun Thursday

Found this on eBay: 1982 Honda Prelude driven by Eva Mendes in movie "Place beyond the Pines"

Yo Dave sweet coat

where is that street where he's driving the motorcycle under the overpass on the 2 lane heavy forested road early in the movie?

The tree lined st is washout road of route 5 in Scotia. When Gosling drives into the back of the box truck is Gower rd. The street I grew up on.

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