'Ready Player One' the latest Hollywood film with Columbus ties


Columbus is having another Hollywood moment — and they don’t seem to happen often.

The release last week of Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” — a film that is set in Columbus but wasn’t filmed here — adds an entry to the city’s history of brushes with Hollywood.

Columbus has also served as a film location, been used as a plot device, hosted a world movie premiere and supplied the world with an Oscar-winning actress.

“Ready Player One” is based on a novel by Ernest Cline, who lived in Columbus in the 1990s while working for CompuServe.

In the movie, Columbus, like much of the rest of the world, is wracked by poverty. But it’s also home to a sleek and sinister corporation that provides the energy necessary to run a virtual-reality game that people play to escape their grim existence.

Much of the movie takes place in a virtual world.

The Columbus Film Commission urged the moviemakers to film the real-world scenes in central Ohio, but ultimately those were done in Birmingham, England.

Here’s a rundown of other instances when Columbus has, in one way or another, figured into big-time movies:

• “My Sister Eileen,” a 1942 film starring Rosalind Russell, depicted two ill-prepared Columbus sisters who moved to New York City and had a series of comical misadventures. It was remade in 1955, starring Jack Lemmon and Janet Leigh.

The movies were based on a best-selling book by Ruth McKenney, an Indiana native who grew up in East Cleveland, attended Ohio State University and worked part time at the old Columbus Citizen.

• “The Out of Towners” had a similar premise. The 1970 original starred Lemmon and Sandy Dennis as naive tourists visiting New York from the fictional Ohio suburb of Twin Oaks. A 1999 remake dispensed with the suburb and just said the characters played by Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn were from Columbus.

• Eileen Heckart, a Columbus native and Ohio State graduate, won an Academy Award in 1972 for best supporting actress for her portrayal of the overprotective mother of a blind son in “Butterflies are Free.”

Heckart — who had a long career on Broadway, in movies and on television — died in 2001 in Connecticut.

Other Columbus natives who made it big in the movies include Warner Baxter, whose career began in the silent-film era, and Beverly D’Angelo, whose many roles include that of Patsy Cline in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and the harried wife of Chevy Chase’s character in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and its sequels.

• The title of “Goodbye, Columbus,” a 1969 film starring Ali McGraw and Richard Benjamin, refers to Columbus, Ohio, but was neither set nor filmed here. The movie is set in New Jersey, but one of the secondary characters is an ex-Ohio State athlete still pining for his glory days on campus.

• “The Male Animal,” a 1942 movie, is set at football-crazed “Midwestern University,” a thinly disguised Ohio State. It’s based on a play written by Columbus native James Thurber and his OSU fraternity brother Elliott Nugent.

The movie starred Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland.

• “Captain Eddie,” depicting the life of World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker of Columbus, had its world premiere at the Ohio Theatre (then called Loew’s Ohio) in 1945. Rickenbacker himself was the guest of honor for the festivities, and several members of the cast attended.

• “Teachers,” a 1984 movie starring Nick Nolte, and “Traffic,” a 2000 production starring Michael Douglas, were both filmed in Columbus.

“Teachers” used the old Central High School, not yet converted into COSI, as a primary location. “Traffic” was filmed at John Glenn Columbus International Airport and locations Downtown.

The 2016 John Travolta movie “I Am Wrath” was also filmed here but it went straight to video rather than being shown in theaters.

One of the most intriguing instances of Columbus rubbing elbows with Hollywood occurred in 1980, when “Brubaker,” starring Robert Redford, was filmed in a mothballed prison in Junction City, about 40 miles southeast of the city.

Redford sightings were the talk of Columbus, and it was later revealed that he had lived in New Albany while making the movie.

Asked his impressions of central Ohio, the actor supposedly said the place was really “into lawn mowers.”

jblundo@dispatch.com

@joeblundo

 

 



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